Reprint: Straw man science: keeping climate simple

A very good article from The Conversation by Micharl Brown of Monash University, enjoy:

Straw man science: keeping climate simple

By Michael J. I. Brown, Monash University

Straw man: an argument, claim or opponent which is invented in order to defeat or create an argument.

Climate change is controversial and much debated in the media. But did you know much of the debate is about straw man climate science?

Straw man climate science is like real climate science, but with the science, awkward facts and complexity removed.

It can be confusing. Straw man and actual climate science appear in the same articles and interviews. Editors drop the words “straw man” from articles. Some people even confuse straw man and actual climate science.

So let’s take a look at straw man climate science in action.

How much?

We have increased carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere by 40% since the 1800s. How does straw man climate science deal with this?

“And I can’t recall the number of times I have said, and it is uncontested, that human beings produce 3% of the carbon dioxide in the air.”, Alan Jones, 2GB, 19 October 2012

We produce a modest percentage of all CO2 emissions. But the extra emissions aren’t absorbed by the carbon cycle, so CO2 builds up in the air. A small rise each year has resulted in a 40% increase of CO2.

An error of omission on emissions.

Straw man climate science confuses the percentage of CO2 emissions we produce with the percentage of CO2 in the air we are responsible for. A big problem is hidden with a comforting number.

Harmless?

There is plenty of evidence that CO2 will influence climate. Lab measurements show different gases have very different properties. CO2, water vapour and methane are far more effective greenhouse gases than nitrogen and oxygen.


How dangerous can it be? cobalt123/Flickr

Scientists have measured how CO2 blocks infrared light in the atmosphere, using satellites looking down and telescopes looking up. Climate models with and without anthropogenic CO2 emissions can be compared with observations.

The evidence points to increasing CO2 causing climate change.

What does straw man say?

“And of course carbon dioxide isn’t a pollutant. It’s a harmless trace gas that’s necessary for life”, Alan Jones, 2GB, 15 March 2011

Jones has delivered a one-two punch of non-sequiturs.

Are Jones’ statements relevant to the lab results? Are they relevant to satellite and telescope measurements of the atmosphere? Do they have any relevance to CO2 and climate change? No, no and no.

Steady as she goes?

Earth’s climate is complex. It is influenced by the sun, volcanoes, CO2 and more. Consequently there are variations from year-to-year.

Now for the straw man:

“Last year was the sixth coldest since 1997, which shows the catastrophic scenarios of recent times are no longer looming over us.”, Imre Salusinszky, The Australian, 11 January 2012

Salusinszky is ignoring real world complexity. Scientists never predicted a perfectly steady rise in temperature. Years that are slightly cooler than our hottest decade are no surprise.

CO2 will produce a warmer climate, but CO2 won’t switch off variability. Suggesting otherwise is ignorant or deceptive.

Down down?

Seas are rising, but complexity lurks. Changing rainfall patterns make sea levels temporarily dip when there is a switch from El Niño to La Niña.

What was The Australian’s headline?

“Sea Level Fall Defies Climate Warnings”, The Australian, 29 September 2012

Straw man climate science ignoring variability again. The dip’s cause and temporary nature were predictable. The fall stopped in March 2011, and was followed by a rapid rise.


Sea levels have risen over decades, but brief dips in sea level do occur. CSIRO http://www.cmar.csiro.au/sealevel/images/alt_gmsl_seas_rem.jpg

The Australian’s headline doesn’t match the science. The headline only matches the introduction to Graham Lloyd’s article, and is at odds with the experts he interviewed. Straw man climate science is often practised by journalists, not scientists.

Storm in a tea cup?

Anyone who has been to Cairns and Melbourne knows climate varies from place to place.

Even at the same latitude, climate can be radically different.

Climate change varies from place to place too. Rainfall will rise in one place and drop in another. Around Australia temperatures and seas are rising at varying rates.

Let’s check in with the straw man:

“And, we’ve had a record Arctic melt. But better not mention the storm that NASA concedes broke the ice up and drove it south, or the record Antarctic ice gain.” Maurice L. Newman, The Australian, 5 November 2012

Polar temperatures are rising, but sea ice is more complicated than ice melting in your G&T. Prevailing winds play an important role. The Arctic and Antarctic are very different places. The Arctic is a sea surrounded by continents while the Antarctic is a continent surrounded by sea.

These two records are a cause for concern, not relief. They don’t cast doubt on rising global temperatures. Instead, they remind us that rising global temperatures have different consequences around the globe.


2012 was a record low for Arctic sea ice. NOAA http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/global-snow/2012/10

Let’s look closer at Newman’s reporting on sea ice. The Arctic sea ice is clearly at record lows for months while the Antarctic sea ice is far closer to the average. Globally sea ice is declining. Errors of omission by Newman.


Antarctic sea ice was not much higher than the average in 2012. NOAA http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/global-snow/2012/10

What about the storm? This is a red herring. The storm was in August but the Arctic sea ice was tracking record lows in July. Also, a dramatic low in Arctic sea ice cannot be produced by just one storm. Oops, more errors of omission.

Consensus?

“No consensus among climate scientists after all”, The Australian, 14 October 2010

Scientific consensus is often demanded for policy making. But it should not be confused with 100% agreement.

Vocal minorities will never accept the evidence. A handful of biologists don’t accept evolution. A handful of astronomers think there was no Big Bang. A handful of climate scientists say there is no such thing as anthropogenic climate change.

The overwhelming majority of climate scientists, peer reviewed papers and scientific organisations have concluded anthropogenic climate change is real. This is scientific consensus.

But isn’t science never settled? Yes. But apples won’t start falling up because we don’t understand quantum gravity. Global warming won’t stop because we don’t know if temperatures will rise 2, 3 or 4 °C.

We don’t know exactly how climate will change, but we know it is changing and will continue to do so.

What is it?

So what is straw man climate science?

Straw man climate science marries facts with errors of omission. Comforting numbers are presented with logical fallacies. Any uncertainty is confused with complete uncertainty. Uncertainty about “how” is confused with uncertainty about “if”. Dissent by a tiny minority is confused with a lack of scientific consensus.

Straw man climate science ignores real world complexity. Variations from year-to-year and place-to-place are assumed to undermine the case for anthropogenic climate change. This is just plain wrong.

Straw man climate science is rarely the work of climate scientists. Usually it is the work of journalists, op-ed writers, bloggers and think tanks. Straw man climate science tells us more about their agendas than it does about science.

Michael J. I. Brown receives funding from the ARC and Monash University to undertake research into galaxy evolution and active galactic nuclei.

The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.

61 thoughts on “Reprint: Straw man science: keeping climate simple

  1. rubber taster says:

    Eric:
    ” Ah all the models are wrong! All the models are wrong!”

    Sane person:
    No they’re not.

    See:

    http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/7/4/044035/article

    Quote:
    “A few years later, Hansen et al (1981) analysed and included the effect of ocean thermal inertia, resulting in lower projections ranging between 0.28 and 0.45 °C warming from 1980–2010. Their upper limit thus corresponds to the observed warming trend. They further correctly predicted that the global warming signal would emerge from the noise of natural variability before the end of the 20th century. ”

    Conclusion:
    Suck $hit Eric. Suck $shit…

    • eworrall1 says:

      More insights from jailbird Hansen – after adding a few kludges, my models would have been right, so I was right all along.

      Keep it up rubber, you’re killing me.

  2. john byatt says:

    New Scientist article

    1.The thick sea ice in the Arctic Ocean was not expected to melt until the end of the century. If current trends continue, summer ice could be gone in a decade or two.
    2.We knew global warming was going to make the weather more extreme. But it’s becoming even more extreme than anyone predicted.
    3.Global warming was expected to boost food production. Instead, food prices are soaring as the effects of extreme weather kick in.
    4.Greenland’s rapid loss of ice mean we’re in for a rise of at least 1 metre by 2100, and possibly much more.
    5.The planet currently absorbs half our CO2emissions. All the signs are it won’t for much longer.
    6.If we stopped emitting CO2 tomorrow, we might be able to avoid climate disaster. In fact we are still increasing emissions.
    7.If the worst climate predictions are realized, vast swathes of the globe could become too hot for humans to survive.

    • Eric Worrall says:

      Is that the same new scientist which published a serious editorial on a perpetual energy machine?

      http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg19125681.400-relativity-drive-the-end-of-wings-and-wheels.html

      It will be talking dinosaurs next.

      • john byatt says:

        Do you ever follow up on anything

        Editor’s note

        It is a fair criticism that New Scientist did not make clear enough how controversial Roger Shawyer?s engine is. We should have made more explicit where it apparently contravenes the laws of nature and reported that several physicists declined to comment on the device because they thought it too contentious.

        But should New Scientist should have covered this story at all? The answer is a resounding yes: it is, after all, an ideas magazine. That means writing about hypotheses as well as theories.

        And let?s not forget that Shawyer has experimental data that has convinced peer reviewers that he is onto something. He believes he can explain his machine’s behaviour in terms of existing physical laws, which is what the theorists contest.

        The great thing is that Shawyer?s ideas are testable. If he succeeds in getting his machine flown in space, we will know soon enough if it is ground-breaking device or a mere flight of fancy.

        Jeremy Webb, Editor, New Scientist

        • Eric Worrall says:

          If the relativity drive was correct, you could built a perpetual energy machine, by attaching the relativity drive to a spindle, generating power from the magic angular momentum conjured up by your reactionless drive, and feed some of that power back into relativity drive to keep the microwaves topped up.

          Anyone who has the slightest clue about science would have laughed that one out of the office. The editor of the New Scientist is an ignorant PR idiot.

      • john byatt says:

        seems to me that it contravenes the laws of physics then it wont work but the chinese are interested

        Chinese interest

        In September 2008, Wired magazine reported that a team of Chinese researchers from Northwestern Polytechnical University led by Dr. Juan Yang (杨涓) claims to have confirmed the theory behind the drive and are proceeding to build a demonstration version. [16] Yang’s group has since published two papers on the topic.[17][18][19] Even though the abstracts of these two papers do not mention experimental results, the body of the first paper gives experimental results, which confirm that the effect is real and within better than 50% of the theoretically predicted results

        your position on climate change contravenes the laws of physics eric, that does not seem to pose a problem for you but ironical that you choose which laws to accept and which to deny

        • Eric Worrall says:

          If you had the slightest clue about physics, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Read the New Scientist article in detail, and tell me where the magic energy is supposed to come from.

      • john byatt says:

        Without going into bat for this research, have not read any of it and as I have said that if it contravenes the laws of physics then it will not work,
        I make an observation only

        If someone had pointed to a rock, uranium and said that one day that rock will provide more power than a mountain of coal we would have laughed and said that it would be impossible, you could not get that much energy from such a small rock.

        I am sceptical but let them prove that it does not contravene the laws of physics or let others proof that it does, this is how science advances.

      • zoot says:

        Eric, if you had the slightest clue about physics you would know the difference between temperature and heat.

    • Eric Worrall says:

      blah blah … worse than we thought … blah blah…

      Sooner or later you guys will figure out cranking up the scare stories just loses you your audience. Hansen’s boiling biosphere is already scary enough, its just people don’t really take you seriously – otherwise the Greens would be the biggest party in parliament.

    • rubber taster says:

      http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/7/4/044035/article

      Comparing climate projections to observations up to 2011

      “We analyse global temperature and sea-level data for the past few decades and compare them to projections published in the third and fourth assessment reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The results show that global temperature continues to increase in good agreement with the best estimates of the IPCC, especially if we account for the effects of short-term variability due to the El Niño/Southern Oscillation, volcanic activity and solar variability. The rate of sea-level rise of the past few decades, on the other hand, is greater than projected by the IPCC models. This suggests that IPCC sea-level projections for the future may also be biased low”

  3. Stuart Mathieson says:

    Eric is happy to selectively quote from anything that indicates significant variation in temperature and CO2 levels in past, for example the Mesozoic. He ignores the vastly dufferent fauna and flora that prevailed at the time and the extinctions sometimes mass extinctions associated with them. The rapid drip in CO2 levels in the Mesozoic corresponds nicely with Antarctic glaciation. His selections indicate a cavalier attitude towards scientific realism. In my somewhat limited readings I’ll concede, this is frequently a commitment to other standards of belief warrant. I can’t be bothered with this puerile activity.

    • Eric Worrall says:

      15 years, no warming, 10% rise in CO2.

      Alarmism is halfway to falsification Stuart. The sniggering has already started in the back rows. Some of your greatest former supporters, such as James Lovelock, have dropped away.

      Your fantasy won’t survive 30 years, no warming, 20% rise in CO2 – which seems quite likely based on current trends.

      • john byatt says:

        the problem is that you cannot use current trends even if your delusion was correct to project the future trends,

      • john byatt says:

        So is it an average of the 20th century, the maximum of the 20th century?
        how does it now rate in the 21st century, I have seen ocean data before where the cut of date was prior to 2000, only to find that 21ST SST is now much higher

        You read the full paper?

        your claim that the current climate is just natural variation is however not supported by any science on earth,

        • Eric Worrall says:

          Its certainly well within natural variation of temperatures. The rise in temperature in the 20th century coincided with a solar grand maximum, just as with other natural warmings, and was probably equal to or less than the temperature of some previous warmings. Some previous interglacials in the last 100,000 years or so were several degrees warmer than today, with higher sea levels. The rate of warming in the late 20th century is comparable to the rate of warming at the start of the 20th century, and similar rates of warming have occurred in previous centuries, so there is nothing special about the rate of warming either.

          And best of all, it has now stopped, for the last 15 years. Not a 30 year trend – yet – but well on the way.

      • zoot says:

        your claim that the current climate is just natural variation is however not supported by any science on earth,

        Nothing Eric says is supported by any science on Earth.

        • Eric Worrall says:

          Natural variation even in the recent past has produced warmer and cooler temperatures than the present. The Holocene Optimum was significantly warmer than today. Nothing about current temperatures is unusual.

      • zoot says:

        Nothing Eric says is supported by any science on Earth.

    • rubber taster says:

      Too true. Climate denier troll. Sad pathetic individual.

  4. john byatt says:

    love it, jo nova has just replied to a letter in which i was debating wes allen in the gympie times.
    what a great day i will have, cannot scan it but might get around to a copy

    debating nova without her being able to control the comments will not be to her liking

  5. john byatt says:

    We have the lot here, the God reference, the conspiracy, the denial

    http://justgroundsonline.com/forum/topics/recent-conviction-of-italian-geologists?xg_source=activity

  6. john byatt says:

    Jo nova, after copping flack for her dodgy borehole graph, has another post including the modern temp, well almost,
    as it not longer justifies her claim re MWP, she now decides that borehole proxy is not really much good anyway, unless of course you use an older paper by the same authors
    who the hell apart from eric falls for this stuff
    there cannot be that many left as their science gets nuttier and the conspiracies reach further and further to maintain the hoax.

    it was just to painful to finish reading

    ,

    • john byatt says:

      I think that she has used her own graph because if she used the original, modern temp may have gone beyond the limits of the graph.will wait for someone else to do the hard slog.

  7. john byatt says:

    There is now no political advantage in attacking the great big tax,
    it is over, dead as a dodo

    http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/4393018.html

  8. john byatt says:

    anyone got some more popcorn?

    justgrouinds

    ” you half faced grub”

    “you stupid old prawn”

    just like the goon show.

  9. john byatt says:

    If you ask most people in the street what is a strawman argument, or the logical fallacies used by the sceptics they will not have a clue what you are talking about,

    If you then repeat what they are misrepresenting you as claiming, you just reinforce it in the readers mind.

    I ignore the strawman and only go to the facts, usually just comment on the irrelevance if it is required

  10. Stuart Mathieson says:

    Here’s an example of using an article preamble out of context and then using it ti deny the substantive content.

    Peter Foster (Otago Daily Times, 21.11. 12) quotes  Nature magazine: “Better models are needed before exceptional events can be reliably linked to global warming.”
    He then goes on to claim Nature is denying a link between global warming and extreme weather events.

    At no stage did Nature deny the relationship between Anthropogenic Global Warming and the increasing frequency and intensity of weather extremes. On the contrary. They stated quite clearly that weather models at this stage explain trends but will require considerable refinement to meet legal standards for particular events under present law.
    When offered the above correction the ODT announced a temporary cessation to the debate. Peter is one of their regular deniers.

  11. Eric Worrall says:

    Hilarious – in summary, what is being said is “our theory isn’t falsified if measurements diverge from predictions, because the world is a big complex place, and we don’t really need the measurements to know that our theory is correct”.

    And thankyou for restating how ridiculously uncertain the predictions of this “settled science” are.

    • john byatt says:

      Denial is probably one of the best known defense mechanisms, used often to describe situations in which people seem unable to face reality or admit an obvious truth (i.e. “He’s in denial.”). Denial is an outright refusal to admit or recognize that something has occurred or is currently occurring. Drug addicts or alcoholics often deny that they have a problem, while victims of traumatic events may deny that the event ever occurred.

      Denial functions to protect the ego from things that the individual cannot cope with. While this may save us from anxiety or pain, denial also requires a substantial investment of energy. Because of this, other defenses are also used to keep these unacceptable feelings from consciousness.

      • Eric Worrall says:

        You’re ignoring the possibility that it is you who is in denial.

        As the years of flatlining temperatures roll on, you’re going to approach a very difficult moment when you realise the belief system in which you invested so much emotional energy was built on scientific fraud.

      • john byatt says:

        Possibilities,

        we cannot handle the proposition that everything is okay and that the world will not reach a catastrophic stage of global warming

        you cannot handle the proposition that the world is not okay and that we will reach a catastrophic stage of global warming

        • Eric Worrall says:

          The risk of the world experiencing dangerous global warming due to CO2 is on a par with the odds of discovering Mars is inhabited by intelligent life.

          The models used to predict dangerous warming contain unfounded assumptions, have never been properly tested. The owners of the models have delusions of persecution by “big oil” conspiracies, and have waged a decade long resistance against proper review by people outside their little circle, going to great lengths to reject FOIA requests and to exclude competing viewpoints from scientific journals.

          In private, with each other, they express private doubts, and talk of pressure to “tell a nice tidy story”, but to the world they present a false impression of settled science and certainty.

          You might think that is a satisfactory position on which to base far reaching changes to society, some of which will make life more difficult and expensive for ordinary people, but I most certainly do not.

      • john byatt says:

        What unfounded assumptions might they be, that a one degree temperature rise will increase atmospheric water vapor, that water vapor is also a greenhouse gas, the observations that clouds will be a slight negative feedback, a neutral feedback or a minor or significant enhanced feedback
        I have left a few out to give you a sporting chance.

        • Eric Worrall says:

          As you pointed out, the biggest unfounded assumption is water vapour will strongly amplify the CO2 signal.

          In the tropics, water vapour limits warming. Summer is rainy season – its warm and humid, but not really much warmer than tropical dry season. Only in arid tropical and subtropical deserts, far from sources of water vapour, do you get the really scorching heat – 50c or more.

          Water vapour limits heating in wet tropical regions, because it forms clouds and storms. Storms especially are very efficient mechanisms for dumping excess heat from the lower troposphere into space. As all that water vapour reaches the top of the troposphere, it cools and forms clouds. As water condenses into cloud droplets, the heat of vapourization is dumped at the top of the troposphere, where it can radiate into space, unimpeded by greenhouse gasses. The clouds which form also help reduce excess heat reaching the surface, by raising the albedo of the planet, reflecting some of the sunlight which would have reached the surface back into space.

          This is why your heroes never found their equatorial tropospheric hotspot, which their broken models predicted – it was busy turning into rain.

      • john byatt says:

        For goodness sake you are claiming that while we can get the amount of warming from doubling CO2 at about 1.2DegC , we cannot work out the amount of water vapor that will be added nor its own contribution to global temperature

        FFS

      • john byatt says:

        now supply your graph showing that the latent heat from evapotranspiration leaves the stratosphere, it moves heat around within the system,
        then you will tell us that the tropical troposheric hot spot is missing, begone foul odour

        • Eric Worrall says:

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

          The long term defense of the water vapor feedback stems from the fact that it provides, in current models, a value of about 0.5 to f. This already provides a gain of a factor of two. But, more importantly, if one then adds 0.3 to f from shortwave feedbacks, the amplification jumps to five. Add 0.5 and it jumps to infinity. It is this extreme sensitivity to small additions that allows models to suggest large amounts of warming rather than the relatively modest amounts associated with the assumed water vapor feedback. As recent studies have shown, the feedback is likely to be much smaller than appears in current models, and hence, the potential for large warming is also dramatically reduced.

          Your climate heroes are only modelling half the water feedback system – that is why they’re creating models with crazy levels of amplification; levels of amplification which would have caused catastrophic runaway greenhouse / death of the biosphere in previous geological ages.

          As recently as 70 million years ago, in the Mesozoic, CO2 levels averaged around 1800ppm. If climate was as sensitive to CO2 as your heroes claim, that would have killed all life. Instead, life flourished.

      • john byatt says:

        After asking for your graph all you put up is Lindzens failed iris hypothesis

        indzen et al. (2001) “Does the Earth Have an Adaptive Infrared Iris?” [Abs, Full]
        Hartmann & Michelsen (2002) “No Evidence for Iris” [Abs, Full]
        Harrison (2002) “Comments on “Does the Earth Have an Adaptive Infrared Iris?”” [Abs, Full]
        Lin et al. (2002) “The Iris Hypothesis: A Negative or Positive Cloud Feedback?” [Abs, Full]
        Fu et al. (2002) “Tropical cirrus and water vapor: an effective Earth infrared iris feedback?” [Abs, Full]
        Del Genio & Kovari (2002) “Climatic Properties of Tropical Precipitating Convection under Varying Environmental Conditions” [Abs, Full]
        Chambers et al. (2002) “Reply” [Abs, Full]
        Lin et al. (2003) “The decadal tropical mean radiation data and the Iris hypothesis” [Abs]
        Lin et al. (2004) “Examination of the Decadal Tropical Mean ERBS Nonscanner Radiation Data for the Iris Hypothesis” [Abs, Full]
        Rapp et al. (2005) “An Evaluation of the Proposed Mechanism of the Adaptive Infrared Iris Hypothesis Using TRMM VIRS and PR Measurements” [Abs, Full]
        Lindzen & Choi (2009) “On the determination of climate feedbacks from ERBE data” [Abs, Full]
        Trenberth et al. (2010) “Relationships between tropical sea surface temperature and top-of-atmosphere radiation” [Abs, Full]
        Lin et al. (2010) “Can climate sensitivity be estimated from short-term relationships of top-of-atmosphere net radiation and surface temperature?” [Abs]
        Murphy (2010) “Constraining climate sensitivity with linear fits to outgoing radiation” [Abs]
        Dessler (2010) “A Determination of the Cloud Feedback from Climate Variations over the Past Decade” [Abs, full]
        [BLOG] AGW Observer
        [BLOG] RealClimate
        [BLOG] RealClimate 2
        [BLOG] RealClimate 3
        [BLOG] Dot Earth
        Lindzen & Choi (2011) “On the observational determination of climate sensitivity and its implications” [Abs, full]
        Dessler (2011) “Cloud variations and the Earth’s energy budget” [Abs, full]

        • Eric Worrall says:

          The only failure is the failed catastrophist models which predicted we’d be halfway to boiling oceans by now.

          Still bumping below Hansen’s scenario C.

          Halfway to total falsification – 15 years, no warming, 10% rise in CO2.

          No tropospheric hotspot – even SkS says so, though they blame detection failure.

          http://www.skepticalscience.com/tropospheric-hot-spot.htm

          Or are you predicting global warming will suddenly kick in sometime? If so, when?

      • zoot says:

        The only failure is the failed catastrophist models which predicted we’d be halfway to boiling oceans by now.

        Citation required.

      • john byatt says:

        Hansens projection go back to 1981 and used a doubling of CO2 temperature of about 4DegC, using his models to learn from, he would have been spot on using a doubling temp of 3DegC, this is the purpose of models, learning
        we have one planet to conduct this insane experiment on, lets use models and save the problem of nowhere left to hide.

        • Eric Worrall says:

          The problem with your “alarmist” model based science is it is unfalsifiable.

          If the models are wrong, you tweak a few parameters and say “see, the model still works”.

          If you look back through history, you can see other examples of this sort of “science”, my favourite being Ptolemaic Astronomy.

          Ptolemy was a bright fellow, he created a mathematical model of planetary motion, based on the assumption the Earth was the centre of the Universe. The mathematical model was surprisingly accurate – it predicted planetary motion to within a few percent, far better than your hero’s climate models. But it kept going wrong.

          Thankfully Ptolemy had provided a means to keep the models adjusted – to correct the defective predictions. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deferent_and_epicycle

          The price paid was as the adjustments were piled on, the models became increasingly complex and difficult to maintain. By the time of Galileo, there was quite a cottage industry of scholars maintaining the model computations.

          Of course Galileo wasn’t the last word – although his models were a lot simpler, he still needed some of the old style adjustments. It wasn’t until Kepler realised that planetary orbits were elliptical that the need for epicycles completely disappeared.

          So we can draw 3 conclusions from this historical example:

          1. Nature is simple – Models which require continuous adjustment, and which grow more complex with time, are probably wrong.

          2. Models which create better predictions with a simpler set of a assumptions are probably closer to the truth, though not necessarily the whole truth.

          3. If you upset a cottage industry of scholars who are dedicated to maintaining large, complex models, and threaten their livelihood with a new, simple model which does not require such effort, they’ll call you names and try to hurt you.

      • rubber taster says:

        I go away for a while and I see the annoying crazy uncle Eric the denier is still here.

        John, his level of denier nuttiness has become worse in the last week or two I see. It’s become pathological now.

      • rubber taster says:

        Oh look – an answer to crazy uncle Eric’s view on temeprature from a real scientist:

        “The idea of a recent plateau in global temperature is ill-founded, see our new ERL paper, Fig. 1, where global temperature is shown as 12-months running mean. There is nothing there beyond the regular short-term variability primarily due to ENSO, and of course we should smooth enough to get rid of this short-term variability when testing for the kind of long-term linkage between global temperature and sea level that we expect. likewise your claim about the recently decelerating altimeter trend – yes if you end your analysis with the stunning recent downward spike due to La Niña. (Some people just love this short-term variability because it obscures rather than clarifies the climate evolution – it makes you not see the wood for the trees. As a climate scientist I am interested in the underlying climate evolution.) -Stefan”

        And from the paper showing the warming continues:

        “The removal of the known short-term variability components reduces the variance of the data without noticeably altering the overall warming trend: it is 0.15 °C/decade in the unadjusted and 0.16 °C/decade in the adjusted data. From 1990–2011 the trends are 0.16 and 0.18 °C/decade and for 1990–2006 they are 0.22 and 0.20 °C/decade respectively. The relatively high trends for the latter period are thus simply due to short-term variability, as discussed in our previous publication (Rahmstorf et al2007). During the last ten years, warming in the unadjusted data is less, due to recent La Niña conditions (ENSO causes a linear cooling trend of −0.09 °C over the past ten years in the surface data) and the transition from solar maximum to the recent prolonged solar minimum (responsible for a −0.05 °C cooling trend) (Foster and Rahmstorf 2011). Nevertheless, unadjusted observations lie within the spread of individual model projections, which is a different way of showing the consistency of data and projections (Schmidt 2012).”

        http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/7/4/044035/article

        Time to say sorry Eric.

        • eworrall1 says:

          Hilarious – the models with their arbitrary assumptions got it wrong, but by adding more arbitrary adjustments you can make the models hindcast.

          Yeah, that proves something.

          But if you’re blaming ENSO, the global warming should roar back in the near future. When?

    • john byatt says:

      How appropriate for a strawman post,

      now get a bit of science into you today

      , http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/vapor_warming.html

      • Eric Worrall says:

        Here is what retired NASA scientists and Astronauts think of NASA’s research on climate change under Jim “jailbird” Hansen.

        http://www.businessinsider.com/nasa-scientists-dispute-climate-change-2012-4

        The group, which includes seven Apollo astronauts and two former directors of NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, are dismayed over the failure of NASA, and specifically the Goddard Institute For Space Studies (GISS), to make an objective assessment of all available scientific data on climate change. They charge that NASA is relying too heavily on complex climate models that have proven scientifically inadequate in predicting climate only one or two decades in advance.

        Given that NASA’s reputation is mud, even to former NASA employees and administrators, try to quote something credible next time.

      • rubber taster says:

        Eric the resident dunderheard keeps receiving his alien gamma ray messages I see.

        How goes your alien communications theory Eric? Had any feedbackback from the little green men?

    • john byatt says:

      What nonsense, you do not make the models conform to hindcast, you test them to see if they do, your basic understanding is pathetic eric,

      • Eric Worrall says:

        Hindcasting is not a valid test of the predictive skill of a model – only prediction can test this.

        As we discussed, you can quite easily fit a polynomial to stock market prices, and create a model which hindcasts correctly throughout the calibration period. But such models have no predictive skill whatsoever.

        Nor do climate models, apparently.

      • john byatt says:

        Hindcasting is the only valid test,

        computers do not know what date it is, you tell it that the date is 1900, you have the atmospheric level oc co2 increase with the observations. you then test it for a period of 100 years, you even tell it that there was an earthquake and the data , does it correctly predict what the outcome from that will be?

        well it does and it has, It has even predicted outcomes that were not in agreement with sat data and paleoclimate results, in both cases it was the models that were correct, there was a problem with both the sat data and paleo data that when reviewed verified that the models got it right.

        Models are the most powerful learning tool when you only have one planet to experiment on,

        • eworrall1 says:

          Hind casting proves nothing about the predictive skill of models.

          A model which cannot hindcast must be wrong, but ability to hindcast does not prove the model is correct.

          You can use a powerful computer to fit a complex arbitrary polynomial to any set of data – old stock market prices, old lottery numbers, whatever.

          But the resulting model is unlikely to make you a stock market millionaire, or a lottery winner.

          It simply doesn’t matter if the model is based on your understanding of a natural process – if the model is complex enough, it has enough adjustment “knobs” to fit anything. And given the kind of computers climate modellers seem to use, their models must be pretty complex.

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