Posted by: Barry Bickmore | February 22, 2012

Response to Wall Street Journal 16

The Wall Street Journal posted yet another op-ed by 16 scientists and engineers, which even include a few climate scientists(!!!).  Here is the editor’s note to explain the context.

Editor’s Note: The authors of the following letter, listed below, are also the signatories of“No Need to Panic About Global Warming,” an op-ed that appeared in the Journal on January 27. This letter responds to criticisms of the op-ed made by Kevin Trenberth and 37 others in a letter published Feb. 1, and by Robert Byer of the American Physical Society in a letter published Feb. 6.

A relative sent me the article, asking for my thoughts on it.  Here’s what I said in response.

Hi [Name Removed],

I don’t have time to do a full reply, but I’ll take apart a few of their main points.

1. The WSJ authors’ main point is that if the data doesn’t conform to predictions, the theory is “falsified”.  They claim to show that global mean temperature data hasn’t conformed to climate model predictions, and so the models are falsified.

But let’s look at the graph.  They have a temperature plot, which wiggles all over the place, and then they have 4 straight lines that are supposed to represent the model predictions.  The line for the IPCC First Assessment Report is clearly way off, but back in 1990 the climate models didn’t include important things like ocean circulation, so that’s hardly surprising.  The lines for the next 3 IPCC reports are very similar to one another, though.  What the authors don’t tell you is that the lines they plot are really just the average long-term slopes of a bunch of different models.  The individual models actually predict that the temperature will go up and down for a few years at a time, but the long-term slope (30 years or more) will be about what those straight lines say.  Given that these lines are supposed to be average, long-term slopes, take a look at the temperature data and try to estimate whether the overall slope of the data is similar to the slopes of those three lines (from the 1995, 2001, and 2007 IPCC reports).  If you were to calculate the slope of the data WITH error bars, the model predictions would very likely be in that range.

That brings up another point.  All climate models include parameters that aren’t known precisely, so the model projections have to include that uncertainty to be meaningful.  And yet, the WSJ authors don’t provide any error bars of any kind!  The fact is that if they did so, you would clearly see that the global mean temperature has wiggled around inside those error bars, just like it was supposed to.

So before I go on, let me be blunt about these guys.  They know about error bars.  They know that it’s meaningless, in a “noisy” system like global climate, to compare projected long-term trends to just a few years of data.  And yet, they did.  Why?  I’ll let you decide.

2. The WSJ authors say that, although something like 97% of actively publishing climate scientists agree that humans are causing “significant” global warming, there really is a lot of disagreement about how much humans contribute to the total.  The 97% figure comes from a 2009 study by Doran and Zimmerman.

So they don’t like Doran and Zimmerman’s survey, and they would have liked more detailed questions.  After all, D&Z asked respondents to say whether they thought humans were causing “significant” temperature change, and who’s to say what is “significant”?  So is there no real consensus on the question of how much humans are contributing?

First, every single national/international scientific organization with expertise in this area and every single national academy of science, has issued a statement saying that humans are causing significant global warming, and we ought to do something about it.  So they are saying that the human contribution is “significant” enough that we need to worry about it and can/should do something about it.  This could not happen unless there was a VERY strong majority of experts.  [UPDATE:  Here is a nice graphic to illustrate this point. H/T Adam Siegel.]

But what if these statements are suppressing significant minority views–say 20%.  We could do a literature survey and see what percentage of papers published question the consensus.  Naomi Oreskes (a prominent science historian) did this in 2004, surveying a random sample of 928 papers that showed up in a standard database with the search phrase “global climate change” during 1993-2003.  Some of the papers didn’t really address the consensus, but many did explicitly or implicitly support it.  She didn’t find a single one that went against the consensus.  Now, obviously there were some contrarian papers published during that period, but I’ve done some of my own not-very-careful work on this question (using different search terms), and I estimate that during 1993-2003, less than 1% of the peer-reviewed scientific literature on climate change was contrarian.

Another study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2010, looked at the consensus question from a different angle.  I’ll let you read it if you want.

Once again, the WSJ authors (at least the few that actually study climate for a living) know very well that they are a tiny minority.  So why don’t they just admit that and try to convince people on the basis of evidence, rather than lack of consensus?  Well, if their evidence is on par with the graph they produced, maybe their time is well spent trying to cloud the consensus issue.

3. The WSJ authors further imply that the “scientific establishment” is out to quash any dissent.  So even if almost all the papers about climate change go along with the consensus, maybe that’s because the Evil Empire is keeping out those droves of contrarian scientists that exist… somewhere.

The WSJ authors give a couple examples, both of which are ridiculous, but I have personal experience with the Remote Sensing article by Spencer and Braswell, so I’ll address that one.  The fact is that Spencer and Braswell published a paper in which they made statistical claims about the difference between some data sets without actually calculating error bars, which is a big no-no, and if they had done the statistics, it would have shown that their conclusions could not be statistically supported.  They also said they analyzed certain data, but then left some of it out of the Results that just happened to completely undercut their main claims.  This is serious, serious stuff, and it’s no wonder Wolfgang Wagner resigned from his editorship–not because of political pressure, but because he didn’t want his fledgling journal to get a reputation for publishing any nonsense anybody sends in.

The level of deception by the WSJ authors and others like them is absolutely astonishing to me.

Barry

[UPDATE:  Here is a recent post at RealClimate that puts the nonsense about climate models being "falsified" in perspective.  The fact is that they aren't doing to badly, except that they severely UNDERestimate the Arctic sea ice melt rate.]

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Responses

  1. Great response, Barry. Thanks for sharing. There’s obviously a lot of misleading information in the op-ed, but I found the graph to be the most galling. I’m glad you put it in perspective here.

    Aaron Huertas
    Union of Concerned Scientists

  2. Hurricane tracking probably became a lot more believable when error bars (“cone”) were included on TV forecasts and the meteorologists incorporated these into their presentations. I would like to last year’s predictions vs. actual paths be animated in time one over the other without including the error bars. Would these 16 claim the hurricane forecasting was useless and failed?

    • Petition to Commit to Putting Our Money Alongside Our Mouths by Ignoring Alarmist Weather Forecasts:

      We, the undersigned weather forecast skeptics, acknowledge that hurricane, tornado, earthquake, blizzard, drought, temperature swing, and other alarmist forecasts are based off failed, incorrect models so do hereby pledge to utterly ignore each and every such future forecast.

  3. Concerning points 2 and 3 (the allegedly significant number of dissenting voices not accepted by mainstream climate scientists), I would like to see a list of rebuttals in one place to track the list of “alternative” papers listed on some websites (eg, as mentioned by Monckton in his reply at WUWT to a critique presented at skepticalscience of him in a debate). This would make it easy to point to one website whenever that other one was used as a reference. “There are 1000 papers in disagreement over there but 2,000 rebuttals of them over here.” Nice, clean, simple response.

    Eg, see this contrarian website http://www.populartechnology.net/2009/10/peer-reviewed-papers-supporting.html “900+ Peer-Reviewed Papers Supporting Skeptic Arguments Against ACC/AGW Alarm”

    Also, skepticalscience has been posting some published papers weekly. These and more should be gathered in one location or website. Along with the paper, we see where they were published, and stars, colors, etc, can be assigned to these journals based on reputation by peers. Make it easy to move from paper to paper through a cross reference. Where available, link to a free copy of the paper (or older draft). Provide a summary of the research paper. Etc.

    • … the cross-reference should highlight rebuttals. This makes it easier for the public to actually use the website for their own personal research.

    • The essential problem being that some people use raw numbers that appear impressive out of context (as Barry covered in a posting not long ago), with few people looking at the actual arguments or tracking how those arguments are doing.

      This is a concern to the extent it is being used to influence public opinion despite whatever the science might be indicating. This is why blogging has become popular today on this scientific subject.

      I want to note a problem with worrying about tracking papers for public consumption. Anyone can create a rebuttal to the rebuttal to the rebuttal…. We’d have a web of rebuttals. If we are interested in honest discussion, do we filter rebuttals or encourage contributions from all sides? If we filter, how do we check our biases and comfort our audience that the filtering isn’t significantly biased and that we aren’t creating a propaganda site rather than an education site/tool?

  4. When I first saw it, even I understood how the WSJ anti-climate- change “scientists” misused their own graph. It doesn’t prove their argument at all! Just the opposite!
    See: “How Climate Change is Like Walking the Dog” (You will love it.) http://climatide.wgbh.org/2012/01/12493/

  5. 1) I tend to agree that you can’t simply claim the present data shows the recent IPCC models falsified, however, the neither are they confirmed. Insufficient data.

    2/3) Unlike you, I am not comfortable seeing less than 1% of papers looking at the other side of the coin. To me, this doesn’t say we all agree and life is happy. It says we are ignoring the other side of the coin. This is not a healthy discrepancy in numbers. Thus there are only 2 intelligent conclusions I can reach. Either the 3nd point is indeed correct, that opposition opinion was suppressed, or the scientific establishment is incredibly myopic to the point of complete unreliability.

    • None,

      You never say a model is “confirmed” by the data, because it’s always possible for a model to get the right answers for the wrong reasons (especially in the short term). Instead, you say the data are “consistent” with the models and vice versa. So far, the models and data are “consistent” with one another, and that’s the best you can ever say for a model.

      I never said that less than 1% of the papers were “looking at the other side of the coin.” I said that less than 1% came to contrarian CONCLUSIONS. Lots of scientists have “looked at” the other side of the coin and CONCLUDED that it’s full of it.

      Therefore, your statement is really bizarre. You require that there be some wide range of opinion on any scientific question in order for you to think that the scientific community has looked at it hard enough. But that’s nonsense. Scientists are very unified about some questions, and not about others, because some have large piles of evidence associated with them, and others don’t. Scientists tend to be pretty unified about questions for which there large piles of evidence to constrain possible/probable conclusions.

      • It’s not nonsense. It’s perfectly rational to expect some level of opposition or open minded inquiry on most topics of import and interest – especially in the early going. People often find what they look for. The error rates of procedure and methodology on scientific papers is no where near the level to rationally support a 1% opposition rate without myopia or worse being the cause. It’s quite obvious that nobody is even looking for something else, or there is some kind of filter imposed at some level.

        The evidence of scientific blindness is staring you in the face. It’s there for all with open eyes to see.

        • >> The error rates of procedure and methodology on scientific papers is no where near the level to rationally support a 1% opposition rate without myopia or worse being the cause. It’s quite obvious that nobody is even looking for something else, or there is some kind of filter imposed at some level.

          Who told you people are not looking for alternatives? Not finding is a different story. Do you honestly think people are not looking?

          The laboratory is unique and presents a situation not common in other disciplines. One of the results of not being able to repeat experiments and generally have a control as one would like is that uncertainty can be difficult to bring down in many cases. The complexity of the earth and climate promotes larger than ideal uncertainties. Climate also advances its evidence much more slowly than does weather, so any given uncertainty might last longer. Of course, these same factors also add difficulties to those trying to drive far off the beaten path.

          • All the answers to your questions really reside in my previous post. Perhaps some good will come of repetition, though I dislike doing so.

            Who told me? I already said that your results speak plainly enough.

            Not finding? People find what they are looking for. The uncanny ability of humans to make data fit their believe is quite powerful, the practitioners of science are not so error proof in methodology as to remove that condition. So say otherwise is simply arrogance.

            Yes, I spoke honestly, I have no intention of being disingenuous. You’re welcome to your own opinion and it is enough to me that I have stated mine.

            • It still seems to me you are confusing “not looking” with “not finding”.

              You would agree that results are that people are not finding very much, right?

              You assume few have looked. You assume this despite that there is a ton of money controlled by interests who appear to find the IPCC threatening. Do you honestly think they haven’t put some of those many monthly billions in pure earnings (or many billions more spent on costs) to work? Funding exists, even via the government (eg, Spencer in the past). Funding exists from private academic institutions (Lindzen). A skillful knowledgeable scientist even should be able to find time to pursue this as a hobby. Many skeptics (possibly with engineering backgrounds) have claimed on forums that climate science is easy or not a real science. So what is holding them up?

              How about motivation, does that exist? Yes. You would become rather famous among many other scientists/engineers (esp., if we judge by petition lists) and among large parts of the population if you found something. You’d go down in the history books for saving science.

              How about religion or personal philosophy? Lot’s of people find the idea of moderation to be unsavory or hold religious views or gut instincts that man can do whatever whenever and the land will always bring forth its bounty.

              There are lots of reasons to believe many people are looking. I would like to know what evidence or reasoning you use to suggest people aren’t looking or haven’t looked.. besides the obvious reason that they have looked but have found the alternative arguments unsustainable.

              Anyone can close their eyes to alternatives, the goose can as can the gander. Why do you argue that the split wouldn’t be 50/50?

              Really, there appear to many many skilled people (skilled in other areas) who doubt. I can’t believe a fair fraction of those aren’t looking. They sure seem like they are looking if one judges by what gets posted on websites.

              [I am not trying to force an answer when I ask questions. Treat the questions as rhetorical.]

            • “I would like to know what evidence or reasoning you use to suggest people aren’t looking or haven’t looked.”

              I shall repeat myself again. Perhaps a different approach will allow you to see my point.

              There exists metascience (like “Assessment of Claims of Improved Prediction Beyond the Framingham Risk Score” from http://jama.ama-assn.org/ ) that provide evidence that science battles a lot of issues that causes remarkable error rates in claims. A lot of built in biases being the apparent root cause. In simple blunt terms, most articles are complete junk. Even many good well recognized, respected, and cited articles have fundamental issues that remain unrecognized.

              That study author (John Ioannidis) has been quoted as saying:

              “The studies were biased. Sometimes they were overtly biased. Sometimes it was difficult to see the bias, but it was there. At every step in the process, there is room to distort results, a way to make a stronger claim or to select what is going to be concluded. There is an intellectual conflict of interest that pressures researchers to find whatever it is that is most likely to get them funded.”

              Now, if there was a true broad inquiry (that most just assume is there) built into the system. Then I would expect some of those biases to work on the contrary side and see *something* on the other side as I would expect the errors to go both ways. Even if totally wrong, we should see something more than sub 1%.

              That is why I call it myopic. I’m seeing solid evidence that the inquiry is narrow with regards to the fundamental theory supported.

              With such high error rates and most articles being junk, what if we started down the wrong path and everything since has been simple confirmation bias? We got careers and egos to contend with in a relatively small field.

              The only corrective mechanism for this is for scientists to contradict it. Peer review is an utterly unreliable check. Only there is no habit of doing this – it’s very much the exception rather than the norm. So there is no reliable mechanism to provide this check.

              From the scientist’s perspective, there’s low risk moderate reward path of conformance, or the very high risk high reward of the non-conformist. The paper spread tells me there is essentially nobody gunning on the high risk path.

              John Ioannidis “Even when the evidence shows that a particular research idea is wrong, if you have thousands of scientists who have invested their careers in it, they’ll continue to publish papers on it. It’s like an epidemic, in the sense that they’re infected with these wrong ideas, and they’re spreading it to other researchers through journals.”

              In fairness, Dr Ioannidis is in the medical field. So I’m taking a little liberty here in a cross comparison. But I don’t find it unreasonable.

              Finally, this point..

              “Many skeptics (possibly with engineering backgrounds) have claimed on forums that climate science is easy or not a real science. So what is holding them up?”

              There are many, outside the “inside circle” of scientists that have counter arguments and evidences they hold onto. The first argument I always hear when someone even mentions this group among the pro-AGW crowd is essentially “I only listen to the insider circle” or equivalent statement (“denier”, etc etc). Instead of an intellectual debate, it’s a shouting match to declare who’s actually qualified to talk in the debate. There appears to be a very strong bias against the “outsiders” participating.

              So, in summary, one side has an unbelievably lopsided opinion, and the other isn’t really allowed to participate. This is hardly confidence inspiring in the whole affair, n’est-ce pas?

            • None, don’t confuse me asking questions with me disagreeing with you on every point, but you seem to be saying that climate science is arbitrarily wrong.

              You seem to ignore that there is money and many influences for many individuals to bias in the other direction… if the other direction had legs to stand on.

              It also doesn’t matter if most people aren’t in a position to be motivated to seek a new direction or question the ABCs. Some are in that position to do that questioning.

              “Of course, it might be that John Ioannidis is a biased researcher with an agenda and distorted view of researchers, drawing conclusions from the study sample that are not warranted. Yes, lots of research is crap and the researcher is biased into thinking that isn’t the case personally. John Ioannidis is a biased researcher.” — John Ioannidis

              Of course, if John Ioannidis is correct then why wouldn’t some climate (or pick your science) research scientists be correct?

              What if we get a flurry of research following John Ioannidis’ lead? What if a large group of social researchers now adopt John Ioannidis’ theories? Do you think this would happen randomly? Or do you think this is not possible since everyone is hooked on the old stuff?

              You almost seem to be saying that science and technology is an illusion.

              In reality, science moves towards a more correct solution even if the current models have problems in some ways or other.

              Even if you want to view particular scientific work as being composed largely of a random result on top of existing works, evolution weens out the greatest fails over and over. If it didn’t, we’d be in caves. We’d be doing a random walk, never likely deviating too much from the cave.

              Gravity doesn’t pull you up. That theory will not have many followers. That theory will not support 98%. It will not support 50% vs the 50% that think it pulls down.

              If the 98% didn’t take short-cuts, we’d be in caves.

              Plus, aren’t the young folks, those the most likely to work hard in a direction with fewer biases and with more motivations to do something great, those who are questioning a lot because they lack knowledge and experience, the ones largely siding with current Climate Science? I just heard one person defending Spencer, talking about how Hansen is an isolated part of NASA and largely has the following of the young college students.

              Bet on the fresh college students seems to be one of the lessons I think you are making, None. You seem like someone who would bet for Hansen.

              >> Instead of an intellectual debate, it’s a shouting match to declare who’s actually qualified to talk in the debate.

              You will see that everywhere from all sides, but I see a lot more attention to math and details from mainstream sides than from the other side. The other side doesn’t have a cohesive theory. I see a pattern that those who most challenge the system have the most questions they can’t answer and are the most likely to say one thing and then contradict themselves. This is normal but supports my point that science doesn’t evolve in a random direction but that evolution weens out the worst and most inconsistent theories.

              Plus, feel free to say how Barry or skepticalscience or realclimate, for example, are shutting up people making a point. I don’t see that.

              Again, I invite you to put forward your alternative ideas that explain the climate. Discuss climate science, if that is what you want.

              >> So, in summary, one side has an unbelievably lopsided opinion, and the other isn’t really allowed to participate.

              “I see bias in that statement. I would almost say that the entire “skeptical” field of climatology is parroting the same broken ideas and speaking nonsense (pun not intended). They all follow each other like a herd. They have too much invested to change. They don’t even realize their bias, but they are all wrong.” — John Ioannidis

              BTW, since the Internet allows free publishing, direct me to who has it right.. in your opinion.

            • None, let me observe that a fair number of online skeptics are challenging ideas long accepted in physics. It is burdensome to debate on those topics. I actually enjoy doing that somewhat because it tests me, but most researchers don’t want to hear how back radiation violates the 2nd law of thermodynamics, for example. Most researchers accept modern physics and leverage the work of others in order to focus in specialty areas. It can be a disruption to get into that sort of questioning and researching while forgoing your ordinary work.

            • If people want to challenge basic concepts in radiation, for example, they should not be attacking climate scientists and wasting time there. They should be debating with radiation experts in some more fundamental physics forum and publishing their results in those fields. Those are the people who know the stuff forwards and backwards. If you can’t win the debate with those guys, why should a climate forum be expected to pay attention to what you are saying? Individuals on such a forum may care, but it is reasonable people would ordinarily ignore your claims as being false science even if they can’t exactly answer your questions or spot the flaws (except perhaps by taking lots of time off to research).

            • “None, don’t confuse me asking questions with me disagreeing with you on every point”

              Are you joking? I asked… one question? N’est-ce pas?

              “, but you seem to be saying that climate science is arbitrarily wrong.”

              No.

              “You seem to ignore that there is money and many influences for many individuals to bias in the other direction… if the other direction had legs to stand on.”

              Actually, the existence of that influence within the literature is very much in question, seeing how there is essentially no opposition. So either there is an overwhelming counterweight bias or it doesn’t really exist. Your assertion has no backing.

              “It also doesn’t matter if most people aren’t in a position to be motivated to seek a new direction or question the ABCs. Some are in that position to do that questioning.”

              And the evidences are in! They could do that questioning, but they don’t.

              “Of course, if John Ioannidis is correct then why wouldn’t some climate (or pick your science) research scientists be correct?”

              They could be, but that is insufficient for me to want to run off and change our energy industries.

              “In reality, science moves towards a more correct solution even if the current models have problems in some ways or other.”

              Care to put that into a proof? Or at least a logical argument. Assertions just don’t go very far with me.

              “You almost seem to be saying that science and technology is an illusion. [snip] Even if you want to view particular scientific work as being composed largely of a random result on top of existing works, evolution weens out the greatest fails over and over. If it didn’t, we’d be in caves. We’d be doing a random walk, never likely deviating too much from the cave.”

              Ahh, good ‘ol science worship. Suggesting that science alone is reponsible for all of human advancement is rediculous. Modern life also has the waste management engineer to thank, and without him science as we know it wouldn’t exist! If I impune the method of waste management engineers should we then also assume I deny all modern life in all it’s glory?

              Modern science is a subset of empiricism. There have been a great many different applications of empiricism in our history. Discussing the limitations or advantages of this particular breed of empiricism is heretical in many of today’s circles, but I believe it is, none the less, a good thing to do from time to time. Especially when that breed’s priesthood seeks to exercise a great deal of influence over the political landscape.

              “The other side doesn’t have a cohesive theory.”

              Ahh yes, the “null hypothosis is an invalid argument” notion. If modern science adopts this new axiom, it’ll just be that much worse. You should logically reject what’s WRONG. Doesn’t matter if you know what’s right yet or not. Is this not common sense? What a joke.

              “I see a pattern that those who most challenge the system have the most questions they can’t answer and are the most likely to say one thing and then contradict themselves. This is normal but supports my point that science doesn’t evolve in a random direction but that evolution weens out the worst and most inconsistent theories.”

              I suggest that this evaluation criteria is flawed.

              “Plus, feel free to say how Barry or skepticalscience or realclimate, for example, are shutting up people making a point. I don’t see that.”

              Censorship? I think Barry is very tolerant of my rantings and ravings, and I’m obviously not in the intellectually friendly camp. Realclimate is legendary for censorship. I have no knowledge of skeptical science. But that’s ultimately irrelevent. All 3 sites are propaganda/advocacy platforms. With your evaluation criteria, all you would need to do to switch sides is switch to the propaganda/advocacy platforms of the other side (like climateaudit and watts up with that and perhaps judith curry’s blog) and you’d end up with the opposite conclusion!

              “Again, I invite you to put forward your alternative ideas that explain the climate. Discuss climate science, if that is what you want.”

              The most obvious is natural variation. But that’s another way of saying I punt, because if it is natural variation we obviously don’t understand it since the general field believes otherwise. Regardless, this is not a productive can of worms for me because the specifics aren’t important in this chain of thoughts.

            • Lol. I wasn’t saying “don’t confuse me by asking questions”.

              I was saying, “None, don’t get confused with the following… that me asking a large number of questions means I disagree with you a large amount.”

              >> So either there is an overwhelming counterweight bias or it doesn’t really exist.

              Are you saying climate science stands out from other scientific fields? [I haven't looked into this question much but I doubt climate science stands out that much in the big issues as would also be the case in other fields.]

              >> They could do that questioning, but they don’t.

              How well have you surveyed the field vs other fields? Again, it’s not clear to me if you are criticizing all sciences or mostly just climate science.

              >> They could be, but that is insufficient for me to want to run off and change our energy industries

              Well, if they are right about significant damage happening to the standard of living of people generations from now and that doesn’t bother you, then I have trouble seeing you as a grateful individual. You are playing with the standard of living of a great great many people for what? For a few more dollars? For a few extras that would not compare to the pain and discomfort others may suffer later on?

              I mostly assume people who rebel against the global warming notion generally just don’t believe problems will arise.

              >> Care to put that into a proof? Or at least a logical argument.

              If science doesn’t move in improved directions, generally, I don’t think we would have been able to get too far from our historical homes in the caves. I find it surprising you would challenge this. Do you really think 98% of people would get themselves to believe gravity pulls you up?

              I must not be understanding you and/or you me.

              >> Suggesting that science alone is reponsible

              Alone? I suggested no such thing.

              >> Modern life also has the waste management engineer to thank

              Who was taking away thanks from anyone? I am recognizing the contributions to advancement that comes from experimentation and theory development. You seem to deny the utility in this.

              Advances in science, leading to our digital world and the massive power of computers to solving problems, is a major reason we have our standard of living and future potential. It is a major reason many areas of society are advanced in many ways.

              Funny you criticize science while using the computer and otherwise benefiting from it in so many indirect ways.

              >> Modern science is a subset of empiricism.

              Feel free to add more examples as a way to add useful context to this discussion. Maybe we can look into those more carefully and see if the differences are major or not.

              I am having trouble figuring out what you are criticizing exactly?

              >> You should logically reject what’s WRONG. Doesn’t matter if you know what’s right yet or not. Is this not common sense? What a joke.

              You seem to be arguing that if we don’t have a perfect model/understanding, then we should assume we have nothing.

              That is garbage.. wait. We owe much to people who had imperfect understanding of garbage yet plodded through helping us get to where we are today. To imagine what the world would be like if only a perfect theory would do!

              I suppose you don’t really believe in being proactive. ..in anticipating the collapse of a tower and trying to safeguard it instead of waiting until we have perfect understanding or it collapses.

              I’m curious. I’ll assume for a moment that I might be misunderstanding you so I can ask, what part of climate science do you think is flawed to the point of doing harm?

              >> > ween

              I meant “winnow”.

              >> I suggest that this evaluation criteria is flawed.

              So you seem to have been suggesting that anything but a perfect theory should be tossed out once it is known to be flawed… but now you have a problem with winnowing out inconsistent theories from skeptics?

              Will you make up your mind?

              >> But that’s ultimately irrelevent. All 3 sites are propaganda/advocacy platforms.

              This is what you had said: “and the other [side] isn’t really allowed to participate.”

              So I think you were accusing of censorship. Why then would you say that censorship is an irrelevant concern since it speaks directly to your accusation of websites prohibiting participation?

              Anyway, more importantly, what would you want to see? [since you seem to be calling "advocacy sites" the most popular climate websites that are comment-based and saying that those sites is insufficient]

            • Let me re-explain an earlier re-explanation since I think I failed again:

              > I was saying, “None, don’t get confused with the following… that me asking a large number of questions means I disagree with you a large amount.”

              Here is what I mean. I pose a lot of questions, but that doesn’t mean I disagree with you a lot. I agree on principle with a number of things you are saying, but (a) I am not sure what you are attacking and (b) it seems your argument should apply to the other side as well.

              Also, I want to add a little more:

              >> propaganda/advocacy platforms

              If people think they are spreading information vetted by a large number of scientists (keeping in mind science stands out from many disciplines as being one defined particularly by “supportable objective evidence” and “seeking the truth about the behavior of nature”), then they probably won’t see it that way.

              >> Modern science is a subset of empiricism.

              Trial and error would not have launched people to the moon “economically”.

              I think it’s accurate to say that the advancement of scientific models and theory is an important part of what defines the modern era from earlier ones. If you always shift theory and generally not share with competitors and many other people in a fairly open forum, society advances much more slowly as it repeats mistakes over and over while “losing” good ideas.

              The expressions of wide-scale skepticism on climate science should be a good thing for that science, as it means lots of people are interpreted in the subject and in becoming educated in it. The main “problem” with the “skeptic side” as I think it exists today is that this side has served as a rallying point for anyone to express any sort of doubt. There is no reason to believe all of climate science is wrong just because lots of different people *collectively* doubt almost all of it. Many are going through a learning process that scientists in the field have already gone through. The skeptic side has is not providing a viable alternative theory but rather represents a process of learning (by novice) and of adding greater scrutiny to the science. This is a good thing, but it should be taken in context. Clearly, so many individual parts of climate science can’t both be incorrect and correct, as would otherwise be concluded if we add up the distinct line item beliefs of individuals who are participating.

            • > as it means lots of people are interpreted in the subject and in becoming educated in it

              “interested” is what I meant, not “interpreted”.

        • none ” It’s perfectly rational to expect some level of opposition or open minded inquiry on most topics of import and interest …. – …….. especially in the early going.”

          What ‘early going’ is that?

          Surely you’re not arguing that climate physics is undeveloped, poorly understood or an ‘immature’ discipline. It’s older than plate tectonics and relativity for 2 common examples.

          Or are you saying that we can’t conclude anything at all because we’ve only had satellite observations for a few decades. There might be glamour, excitement and almighty buckets of money involved in launching and maintaining satellites. But there are centuries of occasionally immaculate, sometimes a bit scrappy, but usually very useful records kept for all sorts of things.

          Sealing, whaling and fishing fleets kepts good records of ice conditions in both hemispheres. The Japanese meticulously recorded the dates of cherry trees blossoming – an unbroken record for centuries. The exploring, colonising, exploiting nations of Europe made sure their ships’ masters recorded necessary details for further voyages and for invasions and settlements at the other end.

          There’s a lot of open questions in climate science itself – like how did they get the modelling for loss of Arctic sea ice so badly wrong as a pretty obvious one. But the central issues are as well defined as those for plate tectonics (and the consequential seismology and vulcanology). And there are other questions about data acquisition – those mainly relate to budget priorities and international cooperation.

          • I find it ironic that you would argue otherwise when the claims of the geological age of the earth compared to our measurement period is so small. But now it’s an evolved and well understood phenomenon! The level of arrogance demonstrated here looks like evidence that I’m probably right.

            Besides, even when it’s not “early”, those rates still demonstrate myopia.

            • None, I get the feeling lots of people who work in the field just aren’t coming across a viable alternative way of interpreting data that in many ways appears to support certain ideas via independent paths.

              Feel free to contribute an alternative view. Although, I admit, it is easier to just throw your arms up in the air and call it arrogance by those researchers.

            • One reason why people all say they get the same answer when looking at the evidence of something *could* be collusion.

              Another reason for this could be that the answer stated is the truth.

        • “It’s not nonsense. It’s perfectly rational to expect some level of opposition or open minded inquiry on most topics of import and interest – especially in the early going.”
          First of all, open-minded inquiry seems consistent with 99% of papers finding the same thing, especially if they’re looking at something real.
          Secondly, I think 1993 is not so much “in the early going” where we’d expect to find the most contradictory results if there were mixed signals in the data. That’s something I’d expect from the middle of the last century to about the 1980s or so. And indeed, when the literature was trawled for purposes of identifying contradicting conclusion about where temperature was going to be in the future from 1965-1979, that’s what was found. The general pattern was that most non-warming conclusions were reached early on, and the number of non-warming conclusions steadily waned.

    • If 99% of papers published in biological journals support evolution, and less than 1% support intelligent design and/or creationism, does that mean that “incredibly myopic to the point of complete unreliability”?

      I would suggest that you’ve missed a third intelligent conclusion, which is that the evidence is so strong that nearly every credible scientist reaches a similar conclusion. Note that this leaves plenty of room for disagreement with specific issues: in biology, people are publishing papers all the time with different conclusions about roles of introns or electrical current through DNA chains or punctuated equilibrium: but they all accept as basic fact that natural selection and evolution have been the main driver and explanation for speciation. So similarly, plenty of people can publish papers with different climate sensitivities, or impacts on tornadoes, or sea level rise estimates, but can all agree that continued GHG emissions are contributing to serious risks to society and environment, and that increased GHG concentrations due to historical emissions explain much (or even more than 100%) of the last 50 years of global temperature increases…

      -MMM

      • “(or even more than 100%)”

        MMM,

        Hmmm …. It could even go as high as 200%.

        dz

      • MMM,

        Even in the face of very strong evidences a <1% opposition rate is extremely low if make any effort at all at other possibilities or continued exploration. Why aren't people even playing with other ideas or possibilities? You have limited your scope of exploration. That *is* myopia.

        You can make a case that myopia is good, closing off avenues of exploration is good. But be honest and up front about your position and make your case of the rationality of scientific myopia.

        • None, feel free to look outside the box. You certainly will have some time to explore since the climate moves so slowly.

          I think the climate’s slow plod makes it easy for many people to try new paths and to fool themselves for a while that they might be onto something. If you want to reduce the chances you will fool yourself and be wrong by the time mother nature will have spoken enough words, consider studying what others have done and try to understand why they follow the models they follow. But if you aren’t convinced, go ahead and make your predictions.

          • None is already out of their tree. I don’t think a box was ever on the table.

            (I love mixing metaphors, that’s what they’re for!)

  6. What do we expect from a rag funded by Big Oil?

    Dr. B,
    I imagine you are in the middle of composing your next blog entry in support of our good friend Dr. Peter Gleick. I am outraged at the manner in which the anti-science blogs are besmirching a man whose only vice is that he loves the planet. All readers of this fine blog… we who are concerned about earth and the disastrous effects of fossil fuel consumption… join me in saying …

    TODAY WE ARE ALL PETER GLEICK!

    dz

    • Hmm. Serious comment, or total sarcasm by a contrarian? I suspect the latter.

  7. Zauberflotist

    “(or even more than 100%)”

    A new study in Nature Geoscience
    “Anthropogenic and natural warming inferred from changes in Earth’s energy balance”

    “Our results show that it is extremely likely that at least 74% of the observed warming since 1950 was caused by radiative forcings, and less than 26% by unforced internal variability. Of the forced signal during that particular period, 102% (90-116%) is due to anthropogenic and 1% (-10 to 13%) due to natural forcing….. The combination of those results with attribution studies based on optimal fingerprinting, with independent constraints on the magnitude of climate feedbacks, with process understanding, as well as palaeoclimate evidence leads to an even higher confidence about human influence dominating the observed temperature increase since pre-industrial times”

    Absent the increasing GHGs, we probably would have cooled, since
    1.We’ve had a couple of big volcanoes.
    2.We’re just coming off “the deepest solar minimum in nearly a century.”
    3.The underlying long-term trend had been cooling (see Human-caused Arctic warming overtakes 2,000 years of natural cooling, “seminal” study finds).
    {from Climate Progress}

    http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2011/12/05/382209/observed-warming-since-1950-was-manmade/

  8. [...] commentary from Barry Bickmore [...]

  9. The following is a graph of “model projections” of global temperatures as depicted in the IPCC AR4.

    http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/figure-ts-26.html

    And here is the same chart with updated observations.

    The added observations are HadCRUTv3 and are only ‘hand-fitted’ to the chart via an image editor.

  10. Barry, you said:

    “The line for the IPCC First Assessment Report is clearly way off, but back in 1990 the climate models didn’t include important things like ocean circulation, so that’s hardly surprising.”

    Wow Barry, you really stepped in it this time. FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER, YOU ADMIT YOU ARE WRONG (without knowing it). Barry, lets go back 22 years in time to 1990. Did anyone back then really think they were purposely not including “important things like ocean circulation” in the models? Were not their models “state of the art?” Yet for some strange reason we’re all supposed to believe that somehow the current models are so much better and smarter.Hey guys, WE got it right this time! LOL!! :)

    You fault the WSJ authors for not including “error bars” when you yourself didn’t even acknowlege that IPCC 2007 report had a “constant output” line (constant CO2 output at 2000 levels) that rose at 0.1C per decade. So tell me, Barry, since your so smart, answer me this: What good is having a “goal output constant at 2000 levels” all over their report if either “no additional output” and “unrestrained output” can both show the same temperature rise over time? Your huge error bars swallow up the constant output scenario. Do you have any clue how muddied you have made your case statistically without even knowing it?

    You say, “let me be blunt about these guys. They know about error bars”. Then why didn’t YOU include the IPCC constant scenario graph Barry, unless you know that your argument is STATISTICALLY MEANINGLESS IF YOU INCLUDED IT, BECAUSE IF YOU DID, THERE WOULD BE NO IMPENDING CATASTROPHE.

    So what is it Barry? Catastrophic runaway global warming? or Whew! saved the planet by shutting down additional CO2 output? According to your “error bars”, it’s whatever you want it to be–and you desperately want it to be a catastrophe.

    I have a sneaky suspicion that you’ll be one of the last ones to fall off the AGW bandwagon. Why? Because neither you nor your buddies at RC have the guts to (consciously) say, “I WAS WRONG”. And that will be yours, Gavin’s, Mike’s, James’ and the rest of the team’s big downfall in the end.

  11. Barry, you state that you need about 30 years to tell if a climate prediction is falsifiable. OK, fair enough. We’re all waiting patiently for 2020 so we can utterly trash AGW theory for good. But now with one fell swoop, you state that 1990 FAR doesn’t count. Say what? So you can arbitrarily eliminate 5 years off the 30 year record because IPCC 1990 didn’t ” include important things like ocean circulation” (Read: because it is totally outside the realm of anything defensible).

    So, you got Jim Hansen 1988 prediction–Strike one. Anyone who thinks THAT was correct has an expired intellectual ID card. IPCC 1990–Strike two. Strike three is coming soon to a theater near you.

    • Scott,

      Good questions. I’ll take a stab.

      My point in the above article was that, like it or not, the model projections come with uncertainty estimates, and if you want to say that some data does or doesn’t agree with the model projections, you have to include that. In other words, to make a statistical argument, you have to do the statistics.

      And you’re right–there isn’t much difference for the forecasts in the “no forcing” and “business as usual” forecasts for a while. On the other hand, there IS a big difference between “no anthropogenic forcing” and what has actually happened in the hindcasts of the 20th century. So the upshot is that if you arbitrarily choose some starting point for the forecasting, it’s going to take a few decades to show much of a difference in the forecasts for the different scenarios, so for now it’s actually the 100-year hindcasts that are more useful.

      In any case, I’m not one of the people on the edge of their seats waiting to see how well the models do. There are enough short-term and long-term forcings and feedbacks in play that it would be really easy to get the timing of the warming off somewhat in the models. However, the equilibrium climate sensitivity is constrained by paleoclimate data, so it seems to me that we know more about where the system should end up than we do about how fast the system will get there.

      • And yes, Doran and Zimmerman should have given error bars, too, as you have pointed out. But as I showed you earlier, doing so didn’t change their essential results, so I’m not that worried about it. Doing so WOULD HAVE changed the essential results for the WSJ authors, though.

    • Scott,

      I’m trying to figure out why Hansen’s 1988 results and the IPCC 1990 results matter so much. Presumably our knowledge has increased since then. For instance Hansen’s 1988 model had a climate sensitivity of about 4 but the current most likely value is around 3. So if you took Hansen’s 1988 model and fixed the sensitivity and changed the scenarios he used to match the actual data up to 2012 it would match what actually happened better. It’s like people still harping on Mann et. al.’s 1998/1999 “hockey stick” graph when there have been nearly a dozen since then that largely show the same thing.

      • “I’m trying to figure out why Hansen’s 1988 results and the IPCC 1990 results matter so much.”

        Because Christy (IIRC) hid two out of three graph lines in Hansen’s 1988 paper, removed all mention that the one that Christy chose to leave in there was written by Hansen as “the least likely scenario” and then “showed” that Hansen’s 1988 paper was wrong by a factor of 4. In a forecast of 7 years.

        This colossal lie to Congress has made the Denier rounds. Therefore it’s ALWAYS “Models are wrong!” and Christy’s hatchet-job of Hansen’s 1988 paper is their “proof” of it.

        Handily ignoring that they have to come through an editor with a very heavy set of shears to arrive at that “conclusion”.

        PS Hansen had a sensitivity mean of 3.4C per doubling, a sensitivity of 3.2C per doubling would have put Hansen’s 1988 paper spot on for the following years to 2010.

  12. Consensus in models: IPCC publishes an average from an “Ensemble of models”, together with a 95% range, whatever it is. Why is the range never narrower than 0.5 degrees? I would expect that at the start of a model run there should be a zero uncertainty, but this is apparently not the case.

    I am asking you here, because the graph has been published at a RealClimate website and their good moderator deleted my question.

    • Hi Curious George,

      When you run a model like that, what happens for the first few years (decades?) depends greatly on the “initial conditions” provided for the model, but then the model results sort of settle in to a groove that doesn’t depend so much on the starting conditions. So what the climate modelers do is start the model in, say, 1880 to give it some “spin-up” time. For most of the rest of the time the model covers, it uses estimates of the REAL forcings (GHG build-up in the atmosphere, solar variation, volcanoes, and the like) to drive the model. This part of the model results is called a “hindcast”. Then, at some point (say the year 2000), they start driving the model with different “scenarios” of how the climate drivers will change. This is the “forecast” part of the model results, and usually when you compare forecasted results with real results, you pick the “scenario” that most closely matches what really happened, even though it’s not going to be exactly right.

      So anyway, the short answer to your question is that the main reason the error bars aren’t at 0 at the year 2000 is that the models have been hindcasting the previous 100 years already.

      But even if they were to put the error bars at zero at the year 2000 (or whenever they start forecasting), it would really quickly go out to about +/- 0.5 °C, because the annual variability is about that much.

      Hope that helps.

  13. Hi Barry, I asked you a question over at RC but I found that you did not answer it so I will ask it again here:

    @Barry Brickmore. You wrote: If you were to calculate the slope of the data WITH error bars, the model predictions would very likely be in that range.

    But the model predictions have even greater error bars so which slope of the model prediction (which model) do you use to compare to the data?

    • Hi Raymond,

      Part of the “uncertainty” in the models involves things like how clouds and aerosols are handled. The trick is to have different models cover the range of uncertainty in how these things behave. Then you run the different models and use the range of model responses as the “uncertainty” in the model output. There are other ways to do it, but this isn’t a bad one.

      In the post I was just talking about comparing the straight lines they drew (long-term average slopes in the model projections) with the uncertainty in the slopes of the real data.

      • Barry, You wrote: The trick is to have different models cover the range of uncertainty in how these things behave.

        The problem is that different models are being used to model the uncertainty in aerosol forcing for example. A better approach would be that each model should explore the range in uncertainty.

        Each modelling group’s projections are made using the adjustable parameters which they think are most realistic. Otherwise why would one group choose a set of parameters which are less realistic than what they think are the best. The large variation in model sensitivity shows that there i’snt a consensus among climatologists regarding the adjustable parameters and physics of the climate models. For example, in Fig. 9.20 of the FAR the equilibrium climate sensistivity ranges from 1.2 C (Andronova ) to 4 C (Knutti). This is a significant difference.

        • Hi Raymond,

          I see your point, but I think the way they do the model uncertainty still ends up with reasonable results. See this paper by Marcia Baker and Gerard Roe.

          http://earthweb.ess.washington.edu/roe/Publications/BakerRoe_Predictable_Jclim09.pdf

          • Barry, Thanks for the paper. It appears that the authors are treating the ocean heat uptake as a negative feedback. How different is that from the approach in the FAR where the ocean circulation was not modelled as explained in your post ? As you also explained the rate of increase in global temperature was higher in the FAR report.

            • Hi Raymond,

              Well, I’m not a climate modeler, but I’ll give you my best understanding.

              As I understand it, the models for FAR had a “swamp ocean,” which I believe is just a vat of water. Thus, how fast the ocean heats up depends only on how deep you make your swamp ocean. This isn’t a trivial detail, because the average depth of the “mixed layer” at the top of the ocean is about 100 m, but there is also heat being lost to the deep ocean by diffusion and downwelling. You can also get heat exchange upward from upwelling.

              I believe that heat exchange processes with the deep ocean would mostly be a negative feedback in the sense that adding heat to the top layer means more diffusion of heat downward.

              Anyway, can you see how adding in heat exchange with the deep ocean might slow down the heat buildup at the surface? I think that’s the main reason why FAR predicted such high slopes. Since then they’ve gradually added more details, so the projected slopes change somewhat, but including ocean circulation was the 800 lb. gorilla that changed things the most.

              That said, the FAR models weren’t THAT terrible. They got the direction right, and the rate was within a factor of 2. Not bad for a first stab.

        • I meant to add that I don’t know why they do the uncertainty in that way, however.

          • It’s done that way to see what the sensitivity to the models are to errors in the forcing.

            If your model is not sensitive to a small error in the forcing, then any error in parameterising that effect is of less import than one where it has a large effect on the outcome.

            Different models also include different methods of producing a computationally effective model, whereby different methods may produce slightly different outputs and be generally acceptable. But if that particular implementation is sensitive to a small error, then your certainties in what any model can tell you is lower.

            This is why you use an ensemble to find out the confidence of your conclusions.

  14. Hi Barry,

    As you know, another method of comparing the uncertainty between the models is to do a power spectrum of the predicted global temperatures as shown in Fig 9.7 of the FAR. This figure was discussed by Judith Curry et al. and Hegerl et al. on the attribution study of the IPCC report (Figure 9.7 in AR4). Curry and Webster in their paper: Climate Science and the Uncertainty Monster, Bulletin of the American Society 2011) argue that climate models underestimate long term natural variations. G. Hegerl, P. Stott, S. Solomon et F. Zwiers wrote a reply paper also in BAS stating that the model predictions were within the error bars of the data. Eventually Judith Curry stated that the error bars were too large to really say whether or not the climate models can predict natural fluctuations.

    Here is part of Judith Curry’s reply to the comment of Hergerl et al. taken from her blog (Hegerl et al. react to the Uncertainty Monster paper Posted on December 15, 2011):
    [Hegerl et al. object to our statement in the original manuscript: “Figure 9.7 of the IPCC AR4 shows that all models underestimate the amplitude of variability of periods of 40-70 years,” on the basis that we do not consider the uncertainties presented in the chapter. Figure 9.7 is presented on a log-log scale, and the magnitudes of the uncertainties for both the model simulations and the observations are approximately a decade (a factor of 10). Considering uncertainty, a more accurate statement of our contention would have been: The large uncertainties in both the observations and model simulations of the spectral amplitude of natural variability precludes a confident detection of anthropogenically forced climate change against the background of natural internal climate variability] (end of citation)

    Suppose that the error in the power spectra of the models and observations was 1/10 th of that in Figure 9.7 (while keeping the same average values for the models and observations) in that case the statement that most models underpredicted the observations would be true. If we follow the logic of Hegerl et al. however by increasing my error by a factor of 10 (to that shown in Figure 9.7) I could then say that the model predictions are within the experimental error. So I would be going from a case where the models did not predict the observations to a case where the models and observations agree. At one point we have to subjectively decide what constitutes an acceptable error. This question is subjective but must be considered in analysing the uncertainty in the model predictions.

    • Hi Raymond,

      I don’t think I have a problem with anything you’ve said. However, the WSJ authors were wrong in their statements even given the most conservative estimates of error in the data trends and NO error estimates in the model trends.

      Nevertheless, if the whole case rested on climate models fitting 20th century temperature data, I wouldn’t be that impressed. They could be wrong about the rate of warming for any number of reasons, not the least of which is the uncertainty in what all those aerosols are doing. But the paleoclimate data gives us some idea what the final climate sensitivity is, with plenty of uncertainty there, but mostly of a different kind. We can look at climate responses over very long periods, where short-term drivers like aerosols would largely be irrelevant, as would multi-decadal climate oscillations. Turns out that the probability distribution for climate sensitivity from the paleoclimate data still says that it is quite unlikely that we shouldn’t worry about cutting emissions.

      • The problem with using paleoclimatic data is that temperature is measured indirectly from O18 concentrations, CO2 is measured from gas bubbles in ice cores. How do we know what the solar radiation was at that time ? Look how difficult it is to even measure solar radiation with satellites. We have just settled the problem of extending measurements from one satellite to the next. Look how difficult it is to predict solar cycles and their intensity. Again, the problem is that we are trying to use a qualitative science as a prediction tool. How do we know what the solar radiation was 1 million years ago ? We obviously cannot test paleoclimatology data by definition.

        • Hi Raymond,

          Some of the estimates of solar forcing are done with cosmogenic isotopes, and over longer periods it can be estimated via celestial mechanics (orbital cycles and the like) and astrophysics (i.e., theories of how stars evolve).

          Yes, that kind of thing will only be approximate, but over millions of years it’s probably good enough to help us usefully constrain climate sensitivity. (Over a long period it varies enough that the unpredictable oscillations don’t matter much.) What impresses me is that the climate models are in the same ballpark for long-term sensitivity as the paleoclimate reconstructions for thousands, tens of thousands, millions, and hundreds of millions of years. This is good evidence that the climatologists have the effects of the long-term drivers (GHGs and solar variation) nailed down pretty well.

          I’m a geochemist, so the way I think of it is to compare equilibrium chemistry with chemical kinetics. It is WAY easier to deal with equilibrium systems, so we often do a little fudging so we can treat geochemical systems that are far out of equilibrium as quasi-equilibrium systems. Equilibrium chemistry just asks the energetic difference between states. Chemical kinetics is highly dependent on the exact pathway of the reactions, which is why catalysis works. Anyway, that’s why the long-term estimates of climate sensitivity impress me much more than the short-term models that try to predict HOW FAST the system will go from one state to another.

          • You Wrote: Some of the estimates of solar forcing are done with cosmogenic isotopes, and over longer periods it can be estimated via celestial mechanics (orbital cycles and the like) and astrophysics (i.e., theories of how stars evolve).

            Reply: These estimates are indirect by definition since we are looking at past events. The latest estimate of the incoming solar radiation is 341.3 W/m2 (Trenberth et al, Surv Geophysics, 2011). Note the decimal point in the estimate. The solar forcing in FAR was 0.12 W/m2 (0.6 to 2.4 W/m2). The solar forcing is then 0.035% of the incoming solar radiation. So you are essentially trying to me that we can know the solar forcing a 100 million years ago with this accuracy ? Allow me to be slightly skeptical ! The problem is that the IPCC is claiming that the climate models are precise enough to project future temperature anomalies based on paleoclimatic data.

            You Wrote: What impresses me is that the climate models are in the same ballpark for long-term sensitivity as the paleoclimate reconstructions for thousands, tens of thousands, millions, and hundreds of millions of years. This is good evidence that the climatologists have the effects of the long-term drivers (GHGs and solar variation) nailed down pretty well.

            Reply: Remember though that climate modelers are hindcasting the paleoclimatic reconstructions and that climate models have a lot of adjustable parameters. The closeness of the fit in the history matches of paleoclimatic data does not necessarily validate the climate models. With a sufficiently large number of adjustable parameters it becomes more easy to history match the data. The real test for climate models is in predicting the temperature anomaly. By definition this test would require another 30 to 50 years to take into account natural variations. Another complaint I have about the IPCC is that the uncertainties in the data and numerical simulations are not explained enough.

            For example explain how the O18 isotopes, or tree rings (IN THE IPCC REPORTS) are used to infer the temperatures, so policy makers can have an intuitive idea of the basic assumptions. Explain ALL the assumptions (IN THE REPORTS) that go into the models so we can have a better confidence in the projections.

            • Raymond,

              If we are talking about changes of several degrees over hundreds of millions of years, in which the solar output changed several percent, you don’t need as precise estimates to back out answers with the same level of uncertainty.

              You then go on about how many adjustable parameters are in climate models, but I wasn’t talking about GCMs. Over long periods you can’t use GCMs, but you can assume the system is close to equilibrium, so you can just use a simple energy balance model. All you need to know for that is the temperature change, the extent of ice cover, and the GHG concentrations. There are ways to estimate all of that pretty well, and since the changes are so big the overall uncertainty isn’t any bigger than the uncertainty in climate sensitivity from GCMs.

            • >> The solar forcing in FAR was 0.12 W/m2 (0.6 to 2.4 W/m2). The solar forcing is then 0.035% of the incoming solar radiation. So you are essentially trying to me that we can know the solar forcing a 100 million years ago with this accuracy ?

              No, they aren’t guesstimating the forcing value directly. They guesstimate CO2 and the sun. Even if you consider a wide range of values of CO2 and the sun (even putting aside what Barry and Wow have mentioned, eg, related to the central limit theorem, equilibrium, etc), the forcings that result from that wide range of values for CO2 are rather constrained by the physics and all fall within a fairly small range. A hint to this is that we consider 2xCO2 to lead to that “precise” forcing you talked about.

              I am not providing math to convey more convincingly. I don’t think I could address your question too much more precisely with what I know right now.

              [Is the forcing used in the climate models the value that exists for the given amount of CO2 or does that forcing represent a perturbation that exists only out of equilibrium?]

        • Also, remember that there are often multiple proxies that can be used to estimate things like temperature. If they all give roughly the same answer, it raises confidence that our estimates are in the ballpark.

          To me (and maybe I’m biased because I’m a geochemist), this is THE Achilles Heel of contrarians like Lindzen and Spencer. They uniformly dismiss the whole field of paleoclimatology and niggle about the details of GCMs meant to simulate 100 years of an out-of-equilibrium system. I really don’t think they are trying to explain the full extent of the data.

          If you want to see what I mean, hit the Roy Spencer tab above and read my review of his book, The Great Global Warming Blunder.

          • You Wrote:

            Also, remember that there are often multiple proxies that can be used to estimate things like temperature. If they all give roughly the same answer, it raises confidence that our estimates are in the ballpark.

            Reply: Being in the ballpark is not good enough for using climate models to project future climate. Every fraction of a degree error in predicting global temperatures translates into huge CO2 reductions.

            You wrote: To me (and maybe I’m biased because I’m a geochemist), this is THE Achilles Heel of contrarians like Lindzen and Spencer. They uniformly dismiss the whole field of paleoclimatology and niggle about the details of GCMs meant to simulate 100 years of an out-of-equilibrium system. I really don’t think they are trying to explain the full extent of the data.

            Reply: I don’t think Richard Lindzen dismisses paleoclimatology since he discusses the possible role of clouds in solving the faint sun paradox.

            • Raymond,

              Your reply seems to imply that if we have 95% probability that the outcome will be bad if we fail to curb emissions, but there is a wide range of exactly how bad it will get, we shouldn’t do anything to curb emissions. I absolutely don’t understand this kind of attitude. Curbing our emissions SOME will reduce the consequences SOME. Also, curbing our emissions will lead to more research to make alternative energy sources cheaper, so further changes should get easier in some ways with time.

              Also, Lindzen may accept paleoclimate evidence for general points, but not anything quantitative (like calculating climate sensitivity). See his debate with Andy Dessler on YouTube.

  15. Hi Barry, You wrote:

    “That said, the FAR models weren’t THAT terrible. They got the direction right, and the rate was within a factor of 2. Not bad for a first stab”.

    I would agree with your statement if the climate models were used to qualitatively get an order of magnitude of the different forcings to better understand the physics of climatology as was done in the 70’s before AGW alarmism. Unfortunately climate models are being used to make quantative calculations of future extreme events and a factor of 2 is clearly not acceptable since it could make a difference between reducing the levels of CO2 emmissions by 50% which is a huge effort. Look at how difficult it was to apply the Kyoto accord and how little we wanted to reduce the emissions.

    The IPCC was set up at a time when climate models were un-coupled (swamp models). When Jim Hanson gave his testimony the climate models were even less developed. This is an example of the problem of using the precautionary principle since uncertainty is used as an argument for action.

    • I agree that there has to be a limit to the Precautionary Principle. If we know nothing, the uncertainty is infinite, but it would be ridiculous in such a case to always assume the worst.

      On the other hand, check out Baker and Roe’s paper again. Just using feedback analysis on one very simple model, and inputting the range of feedback values for different processes from the regular climate models, they were able to reproduce the PDF of the climate sensitivity that the whole suite of models gives. (This is something I don’t think Judith Curry took into account in some of her criticisms.) If we increase the uncertainty of those feedbacks, the probability of an ok outcome goes up, but NOT NEARLY as much as the probability of a catastrophic outcome goes up.

      Given that current PDF estimates have almost all the probability in the “bad to catastrophic” range, I think that even if we niggle about exactly how much uncertainty exists, the Precautionary Principle is probably a good idea to apply to this situation. In other words, I think we know ENOUGH to warrant action.

  16. Raymond,

    I have a question for you about Curry’s paper. It may be an ignorant question, because I don’t really deal with spectral analysis.

    Anyway, I gather her point was that the power spectrum of temperature variation shows that the models all underpredict the variation in the 40-70 year periodicity range. But if we’re talking about simulations of about 100 years, how can you say much about 40-70 year periodicities, when they would only go through 1-2 cycles?

    It seems to me like she has a point that might have some validity, but we don’t have any way of knowing, yet.

    • You wrote:

      It seems to me like she has a point that might have some validity, but we don’t have any way of knowing, yet.

      Reply: I totally agree.

      • But did you understand my point about the futility of looking at 40-70 year cycles in 100 years of data? It may be that there are a couple areas 40-70 years apart where the models don’t fit the data that well. So I was being generous when I said Curry might have a valid point. In fact, there is no particular reason to believe she does.

        • Thanks Barry. I think Judith Curry’s point though was that the IPCC may be overconfident in its attribution of the role of the CO2 forcing because it is difficult to model well the natural variations on a long time scale of 70 years for example. Your point about looking at 40-70 year cycles in 100 years data is valid however that also means that the attribution of the role of the natural variations in explaining part of the warming is very difficult because of that.

          • I agree. This is why the paleoclimate evidence carries a lot of weight with me. Here’s a good paper about this by Dana Royer:

            http://droyer.web.wesleyan.edu/climate_sensitivity.pdf

          • >> Your point about looking at 40-70 year cycles in 100 years data is valid however that also means that the attribution of the role of the natural variations in explaining part of the warming is very difficult because of that.

            Remember that we aren’t merely doing frequency analysis on recorded temperatures from the past. There is a large body of established physics that is applied to this problem. Even with very limited data points, we probably have enough knowledge to say a number of very sensible things about the long term effect of doubling CO2 and of man’s role in it. Evidence of this is that some of the general predictions are rather old. Extended and improved measurements of temperature have resulted in a fair amount of confirmation that we have a decent idea of the physics. Weather forecasting is obviously related as well (overlap in the relevant physics), and we have lots of experience there and in many other related types of sciences and engineering.

            It is true that we have not predicted too many 100 yr periods in advance, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do a decent job. Once upon a time we also had never sent a person to the moon or done any of numerous very complex things yet managed to achieve them largely because we already had a very large number of the pieces of the puzzle solved.

            • Extended and improved measurements of temperature have resulted in a fair amount of confirmation that we have a decent idea of the physics.

              Reply: Having an idea of the physics and predicting (or projecting) temperature at the end of the century are two separate things.

              Once upon a time we also had never sent a person to the moon or done any of numerous very complex things yet managed to achieve them largely because we already had a very large number of the pieces of the puzzle solved.

              Reply: Placing a person on the moon has nothing to do with predicting climate. The physics of planetary motion is much better known than that of climatology

            • Having an idea of the physics and predicting (or projecting) temperature at the end of the century are two separate things.

              Reply: Yes they are. And Maths and Chemistry are two separate things. Are you saying that one of them MUST be wrong if the other is right?

              Placing a person on the moon has nothing to do with predicting climate.

              Reply: Indeed. If they were the same, then it would not be an analogy.

              Please take some English classes.

              The physics of planetary motion is much better known than that of climatology

              Reply: They’re both chaotic systems and we KNOW that we can’t even get a simple three-body system “right”.

              But you hold on tightly to your treasured ignorance. Just don’t shoive any of that on our plates, thank you very much.

  17. [...] Straight By Guest Contributor On February 29, 2012 SharePin It Guest commentary from Barry Bickmore (repost) via [...]

  18. [...] commentary from Barry Bickmore [...]

  19. Hi Barry:

    You wrote: “Over long periods you can’t use GCMs, but you can assume the system is close to equilibrium, so you can just use a simple energy balance model. All you need to know for that is the temperature change, the extent of ice cover, and the GHG concentrations. There are ways to estimate all of that pretty well, and since the changes are so big the overall uncertainty isn’t any bigger than the uncertainty in climate sensitivity from GCMs.”

    Reply: Would you have studies showing that “overall uncertainty isn’t any bigger than the uncertainty in climate sensitivity from GCMs” ? What makes you think that the system was close to equilibrium over long periods ? What do you mean by being close to equilibrium ?

    • “Would you have studies showing that “overall uncertainty isn’t any bigger than the uncertainty in climate sensitivity from GCMs””

      Yup, easily done:

      http://www.jamstec.go.jp/frsgc/research/d5/jdannan/

      “What makes you think that the system was close to equilibrium over long periods ?”

      http://arxiv.org/abs/hep-th/9402137

      It’s a common reductionist method to aid solution of a nonlinear problem: solve the time independent part. The time dependent part, being time dependent, has less and less impact on the result as the process retains the same perturbations.

      • Yes, the key is to wait long enough, and then even if the system wasn’t really in equilibrium at the beginning or end of the time period, it was probably close enough compared to the large changes that occurred. If the extent to which the system is out of equilibrium is significant compared to the overall change over the time period, the energy balance approach doesn’t work.

        The ridiculous thing is that I often see contrarians (Monckton and Lindzen, for example) applying the energy balance approach to fairly short time periods (like 100 years or less) where the temperature change is less than a degree, but then rejecting the same approach on longer series because the data isn’t good enough for them. Well, if I have 20,000 years of data and there was a 5-7 °C temperature change, the data doesn’t have to be as good to give a decent answer for the climate sensitivity.

        In addition to the paper Wow cited, see

        http://www.iac.ethz.ch/people/knuttir/papers/knutti08natgeo.pdf

    • “What do you mean by being close to equilibrium ?”

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

      • >> “What do you mean by being close to equilibrium ?”

        >> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equilibrium

        For the climate, they might mean that any “disruptive” event has had its transient response decay sufficiently. I don’t know how well-defined is this concept or what fraction of the time are we near equilibrium. Besides chemistry, however, I think many forms of engineering rely on quasi-static/equilibrium conditions anyway. It’s probably fair to expect that in most systems the majority of time we are either near equilibrium or the average of all time approaches some such hypothetical equilibrium condition. This still doesn’t mean that we would be right 100 yrs out, but the issues we are talking about remain relevant if we double or triple the time frame. Of course, we could pretend we are wrong, but it makes much more sense to consider http://bbickmore.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/response-to-wall-street-journal-16/#comment-10638

        • It’s more like “the forcings away from equilibrium are low compared to the forcings of the dynamic system”.

          But Raymond wasn’t asking that. They were asking what equilibrium meant.

        • @ Jose_X and Wow, My point in raising the question about how close the earth system was to equilibrium in the past was that with a radiative forcing of 0.9 W/m2, climatologists are expecting a rise in temperature of 1.5 to 6.2 C at the end of the century. This forcing represents 0.26 % of the total incoming solar radiation. If the earth system is so sensitve to such small changes in the forcing how can we possibly hindcast accurately past temperatures ? How do we know that the climate ever reaches a stable state where forcings less than 0.26 % (possibly less than 0.1 %) occur ?

          • First, my best guess is that we don’t just look to the past to get these calculations of 2xCO2 forcings. We have analytical methods based on physics of atmosphere. There are many other variables, and also as a reality check, we look towards the past.

            There are theories about the level of solar radiation, CO2, and temperatures of the past. These theories don’t say that solar radiation was anywhere between 0 and 1400. It says that it likely remained fairly bounded. Let me add this time: we can even augment the error range to anticipate some degree of lack of equilibrium.

            Now take these error bound values and do the calculations for the extreme cases. Taking that approach is too conservative, but we can give it a try to get an idea.

            If we do this, we don’t find a range from 0% to 100% when we calculate the 2xCO2 forcing over solar. We find that the extreme cases are in a much narrower slot. So if we are off, we likely remain within that narrow slot and not within the 0-100 range as you seem to suggest.

            I’ll invent some numbers. Say we calculate the following extreme bounds:

            .4/360 and 6/280.

            In other words, we have high confidence that we’ve never (say since earth thawed) had a forcing number lower than .4 (for current CO2 levels..for 2xCO2.. even accounting for some degree of non-equilibrium) or higher than 6. We derive these forcing bounds from physics calculations from proxy CO2, temp, etc extreme levels at any given “time”. Similarly, we don’t expect average solar radiation to have been greater than 360 or less than 280 at any point in the historical record. Now, there is no need to take the extreme cases here if we can make other deductions with confidence, but even looking at this, we see that a doubling of CO2 really should not lead to forcing less than .11% or greater than 2.14% as a fraction of solar.

            I made up these numbers and was conservative, yet doesn’t that change the perspective vs what you were suggesting? If we are off, it isn’t going to possibly be by 5% of solar, 20%, or anything like that. It will likely be much closer to 0.5%.

            If we take the extreme ranges here, then the forcing you are talking about is much higher than 1/4% of the range.

            • >> If we take the extreme ranges here, then the forcing you are talking about is much higher than 1/4% of the range.

              Scratch that from the end. It was leftover from a non-final draft of the comment, and I copy/pasted it by accident.

          • “If the earth system is so sensitve to such small changes in the forcing how can we possibly hindcast accurately past temperatures ?”

            If the earth system were NOT so sensitive to such small changes in the forcing, how can did get out of the ice ages?

            YOUR incapability to understand paleoclimate is YOUR problem. DO NOT place it on the heads of those who have studied it.

          • “How do we know that the climate ever reaches a stable state where forcings less than 0.26 % (possibly less than 0.1 %) occur ?”

            Because the paleoclimate averages out (on the million-year-track) over several centuries. So only changes of the order of centuries remain to influence and not attain equilibrium.

            There’s a variation in insolation of nearly 100% on planet earth. And on the Moon. It takes both a few HOURS to attain a near-equilibrium on those changes.

  20. Thanks Barry and Wow for your patience. I find this blog unique since the climate experts take the time to answer my questions.

    @Wow In answer to my question: Would you have studies showing that “overall uncertainty isn’t any bigger than the uncertainty in climate sensitivity from GCMs”” You said: Yup, easily done:

    http://www.jamstec.go.jp/frsgc/research/d5/jdannan/

    Reply: That is an impressive web stite. Which of these studies would you say answers the best my question ?

    @Wow In answer to my question: What makes you think that the system was close to equilibrium over long periods ?” you gave me a link to a paper which does not answer my question http://arxiv.org/abs/hep-th/9402137

    You wrote: It’s a common reductionist method to aid solution of a nonlinear problem: solve the time independent part. The time dependent part, being time dependent, has less and less impact on the result as the process retains the same perturbations

    Reply: You did not answer my question which I will repeat here:

    What makes you think that the system was close to equilibrium over long periods ?”

    • >> Which of these studies would you say answers the best my question ?

      I read over the beginning of I think the second most recent one on that list. It’s titled “Reliability of multi-model and structurally different single-model ensembles” http://www.jamstec.go.jp/frsgc/research/d5/jdannan/Yokohata_Clim%20Dyn_2011.pdf .

      Let me quote from the abstract:

      > Our analysis reveals that, in the MMEs, the climate vari-
      ables we investigated are broadly reliable on the global
      scale, with a tendency towards overdispersion. On the other
      hand, in the SMEs, the reliability differs depending on the
      ensemble and variable field considered.

      Let me quote from the introduction:

      > There are a large number of methods one could adopt to
      evaluate the performance of model ensembles and there are
      many examples in the literature. These methods generally
      use one of two paradigms. One paradigm, sometimes called
      the truth centred paradigm (Knutti et al. 2010b), assumes
      that the truth should be close to the centre of the ensemble
      members (i.e. close to the ensemble mean). Knutti et al.
      (2010a) investigated the behaviour of the state-of-the-art
      climate model ensemble created by the World Climate Research Programme’s Coupled Model Intercomparison
      Project Phase 3 (CMIP3, Meehl et al. 2007), and found that
      the truth centred paradigm is incompatible with the CMIP3
      ensemble: the ensemble mean does not converge to
      observations as the number of ensemble members increa-
      ses, and the pairwise correlation of model errors (the dif-
      ferences between model and observation) between two
      ensemble members does not average to zero (Knutti et al.
      2010a; Annan and Hargreaves 2010; hereafter AH10).

      > An alternative paradigm is to consider the truth as being
      drawn from the distribution sampled by the ensemble….

      This seemed to me to be related to the question that you posed.

    • “you gave me a link to a paper which does not answer my question http://arxiv.org/abs/hep-th/9402137

      Yes it does. Go read the links within.

      You do have to do some learning yourself, we’re not going to do all the reading and thinking for you.

      “Reply: You did not answer my question which I will repeat here:”

      Yes I did: The time dependent part, being time dependent, has less and less impact on the result as the process retains the same perturbations

      Again, I’m not going to do your thinking for you, YOU have to do your own work.

      • Hi Wow,

        Raymond seems to be trying to be polite, and I don’t think his questions are obtuse, so please take it easy on him.

        • I’m possibly a little more experienced in fake skeptic posting, Barry. :-)

          Raymond is posting like a six year old going “Why? Why? Why?”. There hasn’t been (after the second or third posting) anything that demonstrates any intent other than obstructionist “I don’t get it”ism.

          • RaymondT has maintained certain questions throughout, so it’s not blindly why why. It’s understandable a person would not read every paper link that is placed there. Otoh, it’s understandable you would become frustrated; however, we are all six-year olds when something is new enough. It’s all right if you take a step back if you get frustrated.

            My experience is that it is tough to go on a forum that is hostile if you sincerely want to communicate and bridge a gap. I wish it were a little easier. I too really dislike having someone troll for no reason, but I didn’t get the feeling that was going on here.

            Anyway, thanks for the various links you have offered.

            • Aye, he has maintained certain questions throughout.

              This is rather the opposite of learning, though. When an adult is informed of an answer, they don’t keep maintaining the same question again.

              That’s “Why? why? why?”.

              What, for example, does he not get about “Equilibrium”? And, if he doesn’t think it will ever get near enough to use that term, what the blipping fell does that change about the climate and sensitivity?

              NOTHING. That’s what.

              Since we already have 0.8C warming from a 40% increase in CO2 IN REAL LIFE RIGHT NOW, the sensitivity to a doubling when all the heating has gone in (which requires equilibrium attained in a few years, decade tops), is very nearly 2.5C warming per doubling.

              If we take much longer to maintain equilibrium, then we’re looking at a sensitivity over 3C, depending on how long it takes to reach “near equilibrium”.

              Raymond is either making no sense or is just wasting your time here.

            • Hi Wow,

              There is a very large literature on how difficult it is to teach the concept of chemical equilibrium to students, and as a geochemistry teacher I can confirm that there are a number of persistent misconceptions that are very hard to root out. I know of instances where Ph.D. chemists have had misconceptions about equilibrium, so I try to be pretty patient about it when people have a hard time getting it.

            • This isn’t about Chemical Equilibrium, though. Nor is it about the equilibrium state of nuclear decay (as per Loko “natural” nuclear reactor) nor of fusion production equilibrium in the evolving stellar atmospheres.

              It’s equilibrium in the every-day effect of “we added a change, then stopped” equilibrium.

              We don’t have problems teaching kids about how turning on the electric hob with a pan of water causes the water to heat up BUT NOT BOIL if we keep it below “really really hot” on the bob.

              Raymond after a few questions refuses to accept any contradiction of his opening thesis (we don’t understand enough about the climate to say what is going on).

              This is now apparent that his intent is to continue to pretend this is so.

    • Hi Raymond,

      You said, “What makes you think that the system was close to equilibrium over long periods ?”

      Whenever you have a system that is capable of coming to some sort of “equilibrium,” the farther it deviates from equilibrium, the stronger the driving force bringing it back. E.g., when a chemical system is far out of equilibrium, the reaction rates back toward equilibrium are faster.

      Since that’s the case, it can be very difficult to get very far out of equilibrium if you’re not dumping in massive amounts of reactants or energy from the outside. Let’s suppose, for the sake of argument, that the climate system can only get about 0.5 °C out of equilibrium under normal conditions (i.e., no massive, rapid changes in the forcing). The difference in global mean temperature between now and the last glacial maximum (about 20,000 years ago) is about 5 °C. If we assume equilibrium on both ends and estimate the forcings, you can use that 5°C difference to estimate equilibrium climate sensitivity. If the most you can be off is 0.5 °C, then the your sensitivity will only be off by 10%, at most. The forcing estimate uncertainties will be larger than that, so it’s not that big of a deal. In any case, since the temperature has mainly been going up since the LGM, error from not actually being in equilibrium will likely give you a sensitivity that is TOO LOW by a little bit.

      Now let’s say we do the same thing for the temperature change over the last century. Now the total change is only maybe 0.8 °C, and since there is an energy imbalance (more energy coming in than going out) at the top of the atmosphere, we know the system is not at equilibrium. If we estimate the forcings and calculate an equilbrium sensitivity from that data, now we might be off by more than 50%.

      Does that help you understand why it’s ok to assume equilbrium over long periods with large temperature changes?

  21. [...] commentary from Barry Bickmore [...]

  22. Heck, should I pop over to SkS and for every statement and query Raymond has made show where it appears in the list of denier zombie arguments?

    Given the answers to these zombie moans are as easy to find as the droning moans themselves, why has RT not bothered to read them?

  23. Raymond is also incoherent when he states:

    “How do we know that the climate ever reaches a stable state where forcings less than 0.26 % (possibly less than 0.1 %) occur ?”

    which apparently implies that because the climate is sensitive and a small increase in forcings makes a huge difference in temperatures, that the climate can never become stable AND THIS IS PROOF that the climate science that leads inevitably to AGW under our actions must be wrong.

    Quite how that occurs is anyone’s guess.

    • If Raymond is a sixth grader, he should feel welcomed inquiring about this subject. I was a sixth grader not long ago.

      On the particular example you picked, let’s say last year in fifth grade you learned that if on a windy day you took your eyes for more than 5 seconds off the soap bubble you just blew into the air you would have a hard time finding it. You wouldn’t know if it was blown into the ground or carried 10 feet higher or was way off to one side. And the further off it went, the harder it would be to see and predict.

      Well then, true or false: you might be very suspicious of someone who claims to know, by studying the history of the bubble, the general location of where that bubble will be 30 seconds into the future.

      Eighth graders know you can sometimes eliminate the possibility the bubbles will go down into the ground or to a particular side. Tenth graders know that having a more precise understanding of the day’s forecast will help you. Eleventh graders know that there are different types of soap bubbles and this helps predict their behavior as well. Twelfth graders know that given the current surrounding building structure and various nearby clues, there is a very high probability the bubble will move into an open area and leave in a certain direction to be viewable 30 seconds later. …but sixth graders usually are a bit more skeptical.

      Hey, maybe RaymondT is a second grader!

      • I was a sixth-grader a long time ago. :-)

        But I believe I said six-year-old.

        “You wouldn’t know if it was blown into the ground or carried 10 feet higher or was way off to one side.”

        However, by the time I was 8 I knew enough to know that after 30 seconds, there would be no soap bubbles.

        By the time I was 6, I knew that I wouldn’t find any going upwind.

        And even at 6 I knew that this would have nothing to do with steady state, if I’d known that that was what “equilibrium” meant.

        Portraying Raymond as just a run-of-the-mill denier at least gives him the dignity of actual comprehension, even if he wilfully doesn’t apply it.

        • Ah, so you would be wrong that bubbles don’t last beyond 30 seconds or go upwind. Most don’t, but they can, and the context matters.

          People looking at ice age data might be very skeptical that temperatures could rise much further. They have 8 years and have not really seen very many or any exceptions — yet climate scientists are predicting significant rises!

          Did you ignore Barry’s statement about equilibrium being a tricky subject for much older students to accept?

          Speaking of 6 yr olds, you provided a link to “Time-Independent Solutions to the Two-Dimensional Non-Linear O(3) Sigma Model and Surfaces of Constant Mean Curvature”. I think I can safely say that no 6 yr old in the world can understand that paper. I think a very small fraction of math majors and science PHDs would understand that paper (involving mathematics most math majors and most scientist PHDs would never see.. ditto for most engineers, who likely don’t have anything beyond a bachelor’s in math).

          Wow, would I be correct to say you don’t teach for a living? Not 6 yr-olds!

          • “so you would be wrong that bubbles don’t last beyond 30 seconds”

            They don’t.

            Please check up what “general statements” are.

            Ta.

            “Did you ignore Barry’s statement about equilibrium being a tricky subject for much older students to accept?”

            No. Did you ignore my response?

            “Speaking of 6 yr olds, you provided a link to “Time-Independent Solutions to the Two-Dimensional Non-Linear O(3) Sigma Model and Surfaces of Constant Mean Curvature”.”

            Provided for someone who wasn’t (apparently) six years old.

            Would I be correct to say you don’t read for a living?

            • >> They don’t.

              You don’t have evidence to back that, do you?

              I am fairly sure I have seen bubbles last longer than that.

              I am not sure where these bubbles http://soapbubble.wikia.com/wiki/User_blog:Espiegel123/Duration_Testing_Woes were located, but the discussion supports that idea that there are many variables involved and the times to burst can vary significantly under different scenarios.

              >> No. Did you ignore my response?

              OK, you were claiming that chemical equilibrium did not apply, which is what Barry mentioned specifically and I forgot that detail.

              However, from studying various engineering and considering that mathematicians sometimes spend a lot of time trying to prove properties of solutions or find steady state solutions to problems, I think the concept can be difficult even in cases aside from chemical equilibrium. That is where I was coming from.

              I also know that while analogies are great, they work when you believe the analogy applies. We can each come up with analogies that don’t convince a third party even if we are correct on the analogy. So my complaint is not, for example, whether we can get young kids to understand water boiling in a pot with modest heat, but that the climate is complex and different enough from a pot on the stove that perhaps it would take longer for some such analogies to be believed as relevant.

              >> Provided for someone who wasn’t (apparently) six years old.

              Yes, I realized that, but then are you saying that a failure to understand that link (and a few others) implies the person is reasoning with the experience of a 6yr old? Are you saying that you provided a nice gradation of links to suit a wide range of understanding and communicated that clearly to RaymondT so RT wouldn’t assume many of your links were just like that one, over the proverbial head?

              Well, maybe RaymondT understands now and has left. I refuse to keep arguing about soap bubbles for more than 8 more replies (unless it gets really interesting).

            • “You don’t have evidence to back that, do you?”

              Yes, I do.

              Much in the same way as people don’t live past around 130.

              You may be able to find one or two, but you can’t get away with saying “Humans live to 130″ based on it.

              And for predictability with kids or infantile deniers is to use the example of a rugby ball (American Football) at the top of a rugged slope.

              What is the exact path the ball will travel when you let it go?

              Dunno.

              Where will the ball go if you let it go?

              Downhill.

              The questions you can answer in a chaotic system are different, and in many cases, much more powerful, than ones you can answer with a completely deterministic non-chaotic system.

            • “OK, you were claiming that chemical equilibrium did not apply, which is what Barry mentioned specifically and I forgot that detail.”

              No, that’s OK. It’s one of the downsides to writing a lot. A lot can be missed by the reader.

              However, being brief, though it avoids that problem, can come across as being aggressive.

              If you write all your internet stuff wondering how not to offend people, you end up being unable to write anything.


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