Center Home Science Policy Photos University of Colorado spacer
CIRES CU
Location: > Prometheus: You Just Can’t Say Such Things Archives

December 11, 2006

You Just Can’t Say Such Things


Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Education | Science + Politics

Larry Summers learned the hard way that there are some things that you just don’t do in a university setting. Nancy Greene Raine, Chancellor of Thompson River University in Canada who also was a gold medalist skier in the 1960s, is learning the same lessons.

From the Kamloops Daily News last Saturday via a weblog:

University professors outraged by comments from TRU chancellor Nancy Greene Raine, who expressed doubt on climate change in a national media broadcast, met with her in a hastily called session Friday afternoon.

The meeting was arranged by senior administration at Thompson Rivers University following a cascade of e-mails among faculty concerned that her opinion reflects poorly on the university.

Penny Powers, a professor in the school of nursing confirmed earlier Friday she had been called to the meeting with Raine.

'One of the most important goals of a university is to instill in the students an ability to assess the evidence for and against claims of any kind,' she wrote in an e-mail to faculty.

'What kind of role model do we put in place when the chancellor herself gives poorly-considered credence to widely discredited extremist opinions such as these?' . . .

Charles Hays a professor of journalism at TRU, wrote in a message to colleagues that Greene Raine cannot be the symbolic head of the university and make statements that run counter to the overwhelming weight of scientific opinion.

'And as chancellor, she has accepted a role as the symbolic head of the university. In that role, she owes it to the university not to make statements of opinion and expect that they will be perceived as merely the words of a private citizen.'

The Daily News was unable to reach anyone for comment on what took place during the meeting between faculty and Greene Raine.

What was it that the Chancellor said that set off this firestorm?

. . . another big name in Canadian skiing cautioned that people shouldn't push the panic button.

"I am very suspicious now when I see people make blanket statements because there are two sides to every issue," said Nancy Greene Raine, an Olympic gold medallist in the 1960s who has helped develop some of the top skiing resorts in British Columbia since her retirement.

"And in science there's almost never black and white. We don't know what next week's weather going to be. To say in 50 or 100 years, the temperature is going to do this, is a bit of a stretch for me."


Posted on December 11, 2006 05:40 PM

Comments

Whatever else it is, controversial, contrary to consensus, etc, it is really just disappointingly ignorant.

http://illconsidered.blogspot.com/2006/03/we-cant-even-predict-weather-next-week.html

I would need to see the quotes of the "outraged" professors before attributing any reactions to "expressing doubt" rather than being well, inexcusably ignorant.

Posted by: coby [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 11, 2006 08:43 PM


Give it a rest, Mr Coby. You have catastrophic AGW advocates making absurd claims at anyone who will listen, and you do little/nothing to correct them. "Dissappointingly ignorant" is rampant among those with that view; you just choose to ignore them since it serves to drive those less informed toward your conclusions.

Posted by: McCall at December 11, 2006 09:15 PM


Ignorance is the applicable word. Ignorance of science - even the concept of the joule, leads to a confusion between the rality of "anthropogenic global warming" and the strictly theoretical CO2 forcing mechanism without consideration of feedbacks. It is truly a Tower of Babel - and the current witchhunt.

Education is the Key.

Posted by: Steve Hemphill [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 11, 2006 09:19 PM


Coby,

You claim that Ms. Raine is “inexcusably ignorant” for not understanding the difference between weather and climate. In your link you make the analogy that weather is like predicting the height of the 6th wave and climate is like predicting tomorrow’s high tide.

We can predict the tides with a great deal of accuracy because we know with great precision the very few variables that are required for tide prediction. The motions of the Earth, Moon and Sun are very stable on decadal scales and precisely calculated.

Climate change, on the other hand, is not at all like predicting tides. We do not agree on almost any of the variables that we know about and there are certainly other variables that we have yet to even recognize. The number of variables is orders of magnitude greater and the interactions of these variables are amazingly complex. Furthermore, the human component of climate change is also not predictable.

So, is predicting future climate like predicting future tides? Not at all!

Is it ‘inexcusably ignorant’ to be leery of those who claim that they can? On the contrary, such a stance would not only indicate knowledge, but a certain amount of wisdom as well!

On a side note, it is recognized that even the predictions of tides many decades from now are not very reliable because of subtle, unpredictable (chaotic) fluctuations in the orbits of the Earth, Sun and Moon that render such predictions meaningless in the long run.

Posted by: Jim Clarke [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 12, 2006 06:33 AM


Before today I had never heard of Thompson River University. I am more familiar with the Chancellor, Nancy Greene Raine, but only marginally so. The biography on her official web page says she has a couple of honourary degrees in law.

Apparently she expressed her skepticism about the concensus opinion on global warming. TRU is in Kamloops British Columbia. BC is Canada's left coast and the home of Dr. David Suzuki (not to mention Andrew Weaver).

The quotes above are not very definitive but it appears Green Raine is being criticized by a Nursing professor and a Journalism professor. As we well know both of these fields are representative of the science climate science (tongue in cheek).

Therefore the issue is not about the science but what one is allowed to say about the science. It is about political correctness.

Expressing doubt is about asking questions. I too get very suspicious when people start making "blanket statements" like the ones on Coby's linked web page.

Jeff

Posted by: Jeff Norman at December 12, 2006 06:40 AM


Coby-

Pretty strong stuff. Even the IPCC recognizes that there are considerable uncertainties in temperature predictions to 2100, see:

http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/wg1/fig9-13.htm

Compare this statement from Steven Schneider:

"The bulk of scientists are pretty straight about saying this is a probability distribution. And right now our best guess is that we're expecting warming on the order of a few degrees in the next century. It's our best guess. We do not rule out the catastrophic 5 degrees or the mild half or one degree. And the special interests, ..... from deep ecology groups grabbing the 5 degrees as if it's the truth, or the coal industry grabbing the half degree and saying, "Oh, we're going to end up with negligible change and CO2's a fertilizer," and then spinning that as if that's the whole story--that's the difference between what goes on in the scientific community and what goes on in the public debate."

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/warming/debate/schneider.html

It seems pretty fair for a nonexpert to draw on their experience with predictions to express some doubts about the certainty of 100-year forecasts.

And if you want to get into the differences between weather and climate forecasts, within the scientific community this issue is not so "black and white" as you suggest. Predicting the future behavior of the climate is not like predicting tides.

Thanks!

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr. [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 12, 2006 06:43 AM


Ah, if the AGW people could just make the Medieval Warming Period go away, they would be a lot happier. Facts truly are the enemy of truth, are they not? The fact of the matter is, that if some of these massive efforts to quell "carbon production" go through, it will hurt a lot of people in this world. Most of those people are poor and non-white. Is the true agenda of the AGW to reduce the population of non-white peoples in this world? Sounds like rampant racism to me.

Posted by: Janice at December 12, 2006 07:52 AM


Some doubts about the certainty of 100-year forecasts? In order to predict the climate in 100 years you not only need a valid model of the climate, you need the inputs to the model, things like population growth, per capita energy use, the GHG footprints of the energy sources, etc. These are complete guesses (or scenarios in IPCC terminology) which makes current long-term climate projections highly speculative at best if not completely nugatory.

Posted by: DeWitt Payne at December 12, 2006 08:17 AM


Okayyyyyy...

So what do you suggest we do DeWitt?
Do we just ignore the data that we have been collecting at increasingly high resolution over the past few decades...you know the data that 'sort of works' in the detection and attribution analyses that have been carried out against the current rising temperature trends?

Do we ignore the fact that 6.4billion people aren't just going to disappear overnight (okay I'll add 'hopefully' to that)?

Do we ignore the fact that coal is going to provide a potential easy and cheap energy option for a few centuries to come and the fact that coal use emits CO2, which is a GHG, which as Fourier theorised in 1827 warms things up?

Do we ignore that atmospheric CO2 concentration is increasing rather than decreasing?

Do we just continue with business as usual in the hope that the next generation of climatologists find that illusive 'effect' which has caused the recorded warming without it being noticed yet?

Or...

Do we accept that the range of possible temperatures represents a "probability distribution" and *deal* with it as an uncertainty whilst not ignoring the *possibilities* because they're just too complex to estimate?

What do you suggest?

Posted by: Hugh Deeming at December 12, 2006 10:06 AM


Okayyyyyy...

So what do you suggest we do DeWitt?
Do we just ignore the data that we have been collecting at increasingly high resolution over the past few decades...you know the data that 'sort of works' in the detection and attribution analyses that have been carried out against the current rising temperature trends?

Do we ignore the fact that 6.4billion people aren't just going to disappear overnight (okay I'll add 'hopefully' to that)?

Do we ignore the fact that coal is going to provide a potential easy and cheap energy option for a few centuries to come and the fact that coal use emits CO2, which is a GHG, which as Fourier theorised in 1827 warms things up?

Do we ignore that atmospheric CO2 concentration is increasing rather than decreasing?

Do we just continue with business as usual in the hope that the next generation of climatologists find that illusive 'effect' which has caused the recorded warming without it being noticed yet?

Or...

Do we accept that the range of possible temperatures represents a "probability distribution" and *deal* with it as an uncertainty whilst not ignoring the *possibilities* because they're just too complex to estimate?

What do you suggest?

Posted by: Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 12, 2006 10:09 AM


I think more and more reasonable people are learning to challenge the anxiety of the term 'global warming' by two effective counters:

1) yes, earth may be warming a little, but it is mostly a natural cycle;

2) since human-driven behavior is such a small contributor, and since the 'inertia' of the warming is so massive, experts who say that by changing a few policies we can reverse it are extremely deluded; we would have to stop the emergence of China and India into propsperity, along with the rest of the world, by banning fossil fuel consumption, to do it. That would take world totalitarian rule and a choice to go back to pre-industrial times.

Even then, we would not stop it.

John Donohue

Posted by: John Donohue at December 12, 2006 10:09 AM


If Coby knew more he/she would know that the "consensus" did not exist.

We know this because a former chairman of the IPCC told us in his book that it was "orchestrated by the IPCC"

See: Houghton J; Global Warming, The Complete Briefing. Cambridge University Press, 1997, 159-59
s

Posted by: Alwyn at December 12, 2006 10:11 AM


TRU chief upholds academic freedom: Comments on global warming continue to raise controversy The Daily News (Kamloops) Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Page: A1 / FRONT
Section: News
Byline: Cam Fortems
Source: The Daily News

Controversy over public comments by TRU chancellor Nancy Greene Raine disputing global warming cooled slightly on campus Monday, but simmered in the community.

TRU president Roger Barnsley refused comment directly about Greene Raine's position on global warming, but stressed the principle of academic freedom.

"As president I'll do everything I can to maintain academic freedom," said Roger Barnsley. "Everybody -- everybody, has the right to academic freedom on this campus."

However, Eric Taylor, an air quality meteorologist with the Ministry of Environment in Canada, questioned why Greene Raine would offer comment about something on which she is not versed.

He noted that no one comes to him for advice on skiing. Greene Raine, he said, appears to have a lack of knowledge about climate change and has no standing as a public commentator.

Barnsley said he was not involved in a meeting Friday between two faculty members and Greene Raine following her nationally broadcast comments in a story on climate change.

The university president called a story published in The Daily News Dec. 9 on the comments and resulting furor on campus "twisted." He noted Greene Raine did not identify herself as chancellor of Thompson Rivers University when she made comments during a national CBC radio broadcast doubting climate change predictions.

Greene Raine did not return telephone calls Sunday or Monday.

Barnsley did not mention Greene Raine or her position as chancellor in an interview, repeating only that freedom of speech on campus is paramount.

"The issue is, and what we all have to remember, is the university stands for academic freedom and the ability to discuss all issues. That's what this university stands for."

Greene Raine's CBC comments triggered an e-mail exchange on campus. Some professors said she should not be the university's ceremonial head if she expresses views that represent the fringes of science.

Penny Powers, a professor of nursing who was the most vocal critic of Greene Raine, could not be reached for comment Monday. She was slated to meet with the chancellor late Friday.

This is not the first time the Olympic gold medal skier and developer has been in the spotlight on global warming.

A column by Lorne Gunter, published in The National Post last year, outlined an effort by government and a filmmaker looking for celebrity views on climate change. The column headline called Greene Raine "Kyoto's conscientious objector."

The column said Greene Raine was approached for comment. She agreed, but only on the condition a commitment was made to use her comments in their entirety.

When she rained on the parade of those calling for support of the Kyoto Protocol, Greene Raine's comments were no longer welcome, Gunter wrote.

Greene Raine's comment stated: "Scientific discoveries in the years since the Kyoto Protocol was signed have rendered it out of date. It is time to re-evaluate Canada's position. ... The Kyoto Protocol is not in our best interest and will not prevent climate change. The billions being wasted trying to stop this natural phenomenon should be diverted to solving real environmental problems that we can control."

Taylor said it's indisputable that carbon dioxide levels and temperatures have risen in the past 100 years.

"The vast majority of climatologists agree the Earth is warming up and we have something to do with it and it will continue to warm," said the meteorologist. "(However) there are some legitimate scientists who aren't convinced yet."

Taylor has spent several years studying climate change modelling while working with the federal government. Part of that work involved predictions of the future of B.C.'s ski industry in the wake of global warming.

His report on Lower Mainland mountains found warming temperatures could increase freezing levels by 500 to 800 metres "and would result in the elimination of a viable skiing industry from this area."

Does that risk extend to Greene Raine and Sun Peaks Resort? Taylor notes a recent study by Natural Resources Canada on ski hills in the Rockies that may provide some insight.

It predicted the season at Banff will be shorter by two weeks at lower elevations by 2020. The season at lower elevations could be abbreviated by as much as six weeks by 2050.

The report predicts daily average snow levels will be lower and an increase in mid-season melting events.

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr. [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 12, 2006 11:02 AM


Since Coby pointed out the differences between weather and climate (waves and tides), I have a question: at what point do climate predictions start showing up in the weather?

I was looking at the TAR WGI Figure 9.13 (F9.13)linked previously and noted that given that six years have passed since the models were run (circa 2000) that we should be seeing something by now that is representative of the GCM scenarios presented as part of the "Scientific Basis".

I used the CRU Global air temperature for comparison purposes.

According to the F9.13 and the CRU temperatures between ~1975 and 2000 increased ~0.4°C. These seem to agree (but then they should).

According to F9.13, temperatures between 2000 and 2006 should have increased on average 0.1°C to 0.3°C.

According to the CRU temperatures between 2000 and 2006 increased on average (no fair counting peaks or troughs) ~0.02°C. This is lower than the lowest scenario presented individually by the IPCC (IS92a) though it is well within the range of the "Several models all SRES envelope".

It seems to me that for the Global air temperatures to catch up to the scenarios, they would have to increase on average between 0.2°C and 0.6°C by 2010. That would be alarming. What if it doesn't happen?

At what point should the climate predictions, er sorry, scenarios start showing up in the weather? At what point does it become acceptable to question the concensus of opinion? Do we have to wait the thirty years before weather becomes climate?

Jeff

Posted by: Jeff Norman at December 12, 2006 11:19 AM


Though analogies remain one of my favorite tools for communicating unfamiliar concepts they are easily subjected to strawman attacks because they are by design limited in applicability. The analogy in the link I offered above is the difference between tide and wave predictability and the difference between weather and climate predictability, not between tides and climate change. I did not mean to imply that predicting climate is in any way as straightforward as predicting tides.

I was going to be very polite and apologize for creating confusion or not being clear, but I reread my article and I think this sentence (one of only five, BTW):

"This by no means says that it is necessarily easy to predict climate changes, but clearly siezing on the weather man's one week failure to cast doubt on a climate model's 100 year projection is an argument of ignorance."

makes it abundantly clear.

Posted by: coby [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 12, 2006 11:52 AM


McCall:

"You have catastrophic AGW advocates making absurd claims at anyone who will listen"

Sorry, two wrongs do not make a right, it requires a minimum of three.

Posted by: coby [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 12, 2006 11:54 AM


Alwyn,

See this:
http://illconsidered.blogspot.com/2006/02/there-is-no-consensus.html

Keep in mind it is limited to some broad points (points you seem to miss), but really, that's about as solid a consensus as one could ever get.

Posted by: coby [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 12, 2006 12:01 PM


The more recent article from The Daily News (Kamloops) indicates that there is a larger political context on this issue (surprise) and that the Chancellor's statements were presented (and interpreted) in light of her earlier public opposition to Kyoto.

Thus it seems plausible that the outrage among the faculty may not be just about the CBC statements, but about these more general issues.

Of course, for the faculty this context does not get widely shared, making them look even worse off to those of us on the outside who see only the CBC comments.

The faculty there needs a PR agent. Sometimes letting boneheaded statements lie might be the best course of action.

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr. [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 12, 2006 12:11 PM


Coby-

I still don't get your analogy.

Individual weather forecasts are uncertain, but they have documented skill, even at seven days. To characterize this uncertainty in weather forecasts scientists use ensembles of forecasts. Individual climate forecasts are uncertain as well. To characterize uncertainty in climate forecasts scientists use ensembles of forecasts (see the link I provided to the IPCC). Seems to me that they are exactly analogous.

The main difference between weather and climate forecasts is that weather forecasts are of known skill, based on experience, and climate forecasts are of unknown skill, because the actual experience has yet to unfold. So with climate forecasts there is uncertainty in our uncertainty.

So for someone (in general) to assert that climate forecasts are uncertain, based on their everyday experience with weather forecasts is far from ignorance, it is common sense. Climate forecasts are uncertain.

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr. [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 12, 2006 12:22 PM


Jeff Norman,

"Do we have to wait the thirty years before weather becomes climate?"

Maybe not 30 years, but unfortunately yes, we must wait some number of years before we will know where the the trend line fell in 2006. CRU's graph http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/cru/info/warming/ is misleading in that it shows a trend line right up to the current year. NASA's graph is more correct (http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/2005/2005cal_fig1.gif) in that the five year mean stops in 2002, the last year for which there is complete data.

The more general question you asked "when will climate change show up in the weather" is actually a subtley difficult one. Clearly, as climate is an average of weather and the climate has changed, it does show in the weather right now. However, there is no way to definitively link any particular weather event or daily temperature reading to climate change due to the very chaotic nature of weather and the overwhelming (on the short term) influence of local factors.

Posted by: coby [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 12, 2006 12:40 PM


Coby,

Analogies are indeed susceptible to strawman arguments, as with Roger's claim that predicting tides is not EXACTLY like predicting climate change. But they are similar enough as examples of initial value vs boundary value problems, which really is the difference between predicting weather and climate.

Roger, I'm suprised you haven't yet taken the opportunity to criticize Green for misrepresenting the state of the science as you have in the past in relation to hurricanes.

"Scientific discoveries in the years since the Kyoto Protocol was signed have rendered it out of date."

Do you think it is acceptable for heads of academic institutions to make such bald-faced lies that are clearly at odds with the broad scientific consensus on this issue?

Let me finish by saying that by casting this as a freedom of speech issue -- as is clear from your choice of title for the post -- you detract from the real issue, which IMO is that authority figures (i.e. figureheads of academic institutions) shouldn't use their position to distort/lie/misrepresent the issue in public (whatever the issue happens to be). If they do so, then it is perfectly reasonable for people both within and outside the organization to sanction them, privately and publicly.

Posted by: Marlowe Johnson [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 12, 2006 12:50 PM


Roger,

People who use this argument, precisely as did Nacny Green-Raine, are trying to dismiss climate predictions by saying that a 7 day weather forecast is very unreliable so of course a 100 year prediction is next to useless.

There are undoubtably a great many similarities between weather models and climate models, but there are very fundamental differences as well. Weather modeling is an initial conditions problem, where as climate modeling is a boundary conditions problem. To call them exactly analagous is just wrong and you seem to be baseing that soley on the fact that both have inherent uncertainties.

"So for someone (in general) to assert that climate forecasts are uncertain, based on their everyday experience with weather forecasts is far from ignorance, it is common sense. Climate forecasts are uncertain."

While their conclusion (climate forecasts are uncertain) may be correct, the reasoning is very wrong. I also disagree that there is anything common sensical in that, though it is an easy and understandable mistake. It only takes a couple of minutes of thought to realize it is not that simple. I can after all predict that summer will be here again in 7 months, with much greater confidence than I can tell you it will be rainy in Vancouver 7 days from now (which is a pretty fair bet BTW!).

I don't know what else to say...

Posted by: coby at December 12, 2006 12:58 PM


Marlowe-

Thanks for your participation.

On Greene's comment that you refer to -- "Scientific discoveries in the years since the Kyoto Protocol was signed have rendered it out of date." -- this is not a misrepresentation of science, but the scientization of politics. She is acting as if science can dictate the worth of the Kyoto Protocol. Of course it can't. But this statement is not a "lie," as there is no scientific consensus on whether or not Kyoto makes sense (and judging by success in its implementation, there doesn't appear to be a political consensus either). The worth of Kyoto is a political judgment.

And you mischaracterize what I said about tides, I never used the word "exactly." Do you really think Greene was invoking the debate in climate science over climate as an initial value problem in her comment? I don't think so.

Thanks!

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr. [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 12, 2006 01:13 PM


Coby-

Thanks for your comments. A few replies;

You are in fact cherry picking (or misrepresenting) the science of climate prediction. Consider this point of view from Tim Palmer:

"Compared with weather and seasonal forecasts, where verifying data is reasonably plentiful, it is difficult to assess quantitatively the predictions of uncertainty in forecasts of climate change."
http://ej.iop.org/links/r1UzFhli1/eDHamx6K2xGHjdGqav5vpA/r002r1.pdf

One reason for this uncertainty is the degree to which long-term climate can be treated solely as an boundary value problem. There is in fact a range of views within the climate science community on this subject.

Consider the following perspective of F. Giorgi, (2005, Climatic Change) which includes your perspective, but is also broader:

". . . we can still predict the statistical behavior of the climate system in response to external forcings. This is the realm of predictability of the second kind. Climate change prediction at time scales of multi-decadal to centennial thus has a predictability component of the second kind. We cannot predict the evolution of specific weather events years or decades into the future but we can address questions such as: How will climate statistics such as mean precipitation, precipitation variability or frequency of extreme events change over the next decades in response to changes of GHG concentration?

On the other hand, because of the long time scales involved in ocean, cryosphere and biosphere processes a first kind predictability component also arises. The slower components of the climate system (e.g. the ocean and biosphere) affect the statistics of climate variables (e.g. precipitation) and since they may feel the influence of their initial state at multi decadal time scales, it is possible that climate changes also depend on the initial state of the climate system (e.g. Collins, 2002; Pielke, 1998). For example, the evolution of the THC in response to GHG forcing can depend on the THC initial state, and this evolution will in general affect the full climate system. As a result, the climate change prediction problem has components of both first [initial] and second [boundary] kind which are deeply intertwined."
http://www.springerlink.com/content/y1511t4413357484/fulltext.pdf

You might want to rethink the confidence that you express in the following sentence as the basis for labeling others as "inexcusably ignorant": "Weather modeling is an initial conditions problem, where as climate modeling is a boundary conditions problem."

And for the record, I do not think that Greene was invoking initial vs. boundary conditions, but even if she had, she (like Coby) would be guilty of cherry picking the science for convenience sake. Her statement is of course underdetermined ...

Thanks!

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr. [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 12, 2006 01:47 PM


Roger,

Can you explain to me how "misrepresenting science" and the 'scientization of politics' are mutually exclusive and distinct? Because IMO the two are not mutually exclusive -- Greene has misrepresented the science by claiming that there have been 'scientific discoveries' which rendered the KP out of date. What studies is she referring to? But you are also correct that she is 'scientizing politics' (as I understand the term) to the extent that she is invoking science to discredit a political agreement (KP).

On the other hand your claim that science cannot dictate the worth of the KP is equally dubious. If sensitivity to 2XCO2 is miracously found to be near zero, then the 'worth' of KP is clearly called into question (and this seems to be what Green is implying by her statement). If it is determined to be 5-6 C, then clearly it may be of more worth (at least insofar as it represents the only active global effort to reduce GHGs in a significant way).

Re the tides question, all you said in your first response to Coby was:

"And if you want to get into the differences between weather and climate forecasts, within the scientific community this issue is not so "black and white" as you suggest. Predicting the future behavior of the climate is not like predicting tides."

But as Coby and I have pointed out it is very similar to predicting tides to the extent that both are boundary value problems, and given your ambiguous initial response, I think it's reasonable that I interpreted your criticism that way (although your follow-up did help clarify things).

More generally, pointing out the ways in which analogies do not apply does not detract from the ways that they do apply. It's the difference between 'similar' and 'exactly'.

Posted by: Marlowe Johnson [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 12, 2006 01:59 PM


Has anyone looked at the effect of the shorter snow season at Canadian ski resorts in the context of the total North Americna market? While warming may reduce their season by several weeks, if it has a disproportionately larger effect on US ski fields, then they could still gain market share with less snow.

As for Kamloops State, I'd much rather have some no-account backcountry town put itself on the map like this, instead of having some 15-year-old shoot up his classroom. This of it as progress.

Posted by: Lab Lemming at December 12, 2006 02:19 PM


Jeff Norman asks:

>>At what point should the climate predictions, er sorry, scenarios start showing up in the weather? At what point does it become acceptable to question the con[s]ensus of opinion?<<

Prediction is science, scenario is management.

Our institutions haven't done a good job at educating the public on scenarios, so the error is understandable.

But as Roger's dad endeavors to point out, one metric is not enough for management, nor is it enough to assess the state of the planetary ecosystem, as there are regional changes going on all around us. For example, you'll want to think about regional changes and their affect on species.

Or, you can think about man's effects on regional ecosystems in this way:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20061209/ap_on_sc/warmer_world_african_lakes%26printer=1

Where we have climate/ecosystem change refugee problems looming on the horizon. Will our institutions be able to deal with them, and react better after the Katrina exercise?

The subtlety of these socioenvironmental interactions, you can see, isn't captured by the GAST metric you use for your argument above.

Posted by: Dan Staley [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 12, 2006 02:23 PM


Roger,

Thanks for the additional information, I have learned something, which is why I come here.

It does not however address the point of my very simple and straightforward argument that predicting wave/weather events is not "exactly analogous" to predicting tides/climate change (nor is it close enough to infer reliability of predicting one from the reliability of predicting the other). I did not have in mind boundary vs initial value problems when I wrote it or referenced it, it is an appeal to much less technical properties of the systems in question.

As your additional information demonstrates, it is easy to over-intellectualize a simple point as a way of avoiding obvious conclusions (it is obvious that one learns nothing about the reliability of a climate model at 100 years from the reliability of a weather model at 7 days).

Unless you think that Nancy Green Raine was thinking about boundary vs initial value modeling problems and was aware of the papers and concepts you point out above then I think the charge of arguing from ignorance holds water. My choice of the words "inexcusably ignorant" has as much to do with her job title and public prominence as it does with her thought process and I would not apply such a label to everyone using that argument.

I do, however, have no reservations about saying one must be willfully ignorant to hang on to that position (bad long term weather forecasts --> unreliable climate models) after having the basic concepts explained to them.

Once more for the record, I do not say that predicting climate change is trivial, just that it is too dissimilar from predicting weather to make useful parralells in policy debates.

Cheers.

Posted by: coby [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 12, 2006 02:40 PM


Roger,

One last comment on this topic. I skimmed through the Palmer article you linked (thanks!) and he seems to support the idea that climate modelling is best characterized as a boundary value problem and weather is an initial value problem, so I'm not sure how you can use his views to support your argument.

“forecasts which are not dependent on initial conditions, for example predicting changes in the statistics of climate as a result of some prescribed imposed perturbation, would constitute a ‘prediction of the second kind’.”

“estimating the effects on climate of a prescribed volcanic emission, prescribed variations in Earth’s orbit (thought to cause ice ages) or prescribed anthropogenic changes in atmospheric composition, would constitute a climate prediction of the second kind.”

I agree that climate modelling also has elements of the first kind, but it is fundamentally a boundary value problem so the analogy still holds. Again consider the difference between exactly and similar or primarily/mostly vs only/absolute...

Posted by: Marlowe Johnson [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 12, 2006 02:56 PM


Marlowe; Regarding your comment

"I agree that climate modelling also has elements of the first kind, but it is fundamentally a boundary value problem so the analogy still holds",

recent research clearly shows that climate prediction on yearly, decadal, and century time scales is an initial value problem. I will have a weblog posting on this issue on Climate Science in the next few days on this subject, but have extracted part of my posting below.

" Climate models include weather processes as a subset of the model... to characterize climate as a boundary value problem ignores peer reviewed papers which illustrate that climate predition is very much an initial value problem. Just one example is

Claussen, M., C. Kubatzki, V. Brovkin, A. Ganopolski, P. Hoelzmann, H.-J. Pachur, Simulation of an abrupt change in Saharan vegetation in the mid-Holocene, Geophys. Res. Lett., 26(14), 2037-2040, 10.1029/1999GL900494, 1999.

Further examples are discussed in

Rial, J., R.A. Pielke Sr., M. Beniston, M. Claussen, J. Canadell, P. Cox, H. Held, N. de Noblet-Ducoudre, R. Prinn, J. Reynolds, and J.D. Salas, 2004: Nonlinearities, feedbacks and critical thresholds within the Earth’s climate system. Climatic Change, 65, 11-38.

and

Pielke, R.A., 1998: Climate prediction as an initial value problem. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 79, 2743-2746."

The mindset of assuming multi-decadal global model simulations is a boundary value problem is based on treating the Earth's surface as a precribed boundary for use in atmospheric general circulation models. In reality, there are a wide range on nonlinear interfacial fluxes between the different components of the climate system such that the climate system response very much depends on the initial conditions throughout the climate system.

Posted by: Roger A. Pielke Sr. at December 12, 2006 04:31 PM


Nancy Greene Raine said, "We don't know what next week's weather going to be. To say in 50 or 100 years, the temperature is going to do this, is a bit of a stretch for me."

Coby Beck responded, "Whatever else it is, controversial, contrary to consensus, etc, it is really just disappointingly ignorant."

Well, Coby, I agree with Nancy Greene Raine. So Nancy Greene Raines--and I—say that it's "a bit of a stretch" to say that "in 50 or 100 years, the temperature is going to do this." And you say it's not a "bit of a stretch," and we're both ignorant for saying it is.

Fortunately, the dispute is resolvable (though only on a pretty long time scale). Why don't you predict the 3-year average surface temperature anomaly, centered about 2010, 2020, 2030, 2040, 2050, 2060, 2070, 2080, 2090, and 2100?

Here is the location for NASA GISS surface temperature anomalies for the last ~120 years. To give you an example of what I mean, the anomalies for 2003, 2004 and 2005 were 0.67, 0.60 and 0.77 degrees Celsius, respectively. So the 3-year average centered around 2004 was 0.68 degrees Celsius. (Note: The anomalies are based around a temperature of 14 deg C, so the estimated average surface temperature for the 3 years centered around 2004 was 14.68 deg C.)

http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/tabledata/GLB.Ts.txt

You should be able to predict the anomalies for 2010, 2020, 2030, 2040, 2050, 2060, 2070, 2080, 2090, and 2100 to within less than +/- 1.0 degree Celsius (roughly the difference between coldest part of the Little Ice Age and the present), if your predictions aren’t really a “bit of a stretch.”

Or...do you agree that, "To say in 50 or 100 years, the temperature is going to do this, is a bit of a stretch"?

Posted by: Mark Bahner [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 12, 2006 07:05 PM


Coby-

Thanks for the exchange. Just one last point for now:

You write: "it is obvious that one learns nothing about the reliability of a climate model at 100 years from the reliability of a weather model at 7 days."

From the standpoint of common sense, one actually learns a lot, best captured by Niels Bohr, "Prediction is difficult, especially about the future."

For more on this than you'd probably ever want to see, have a look at this volume, which has chapters on weather and climate prediction, and 8 other case studies:

Sarewitz, D., R.A. Pielke, Jr., and R. Byerly, Jr., (eds.) 2000: Prediction: Science, decision making and the future of nature, Island Press, Washington, DC.
http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/about_us/meet_us/roger_pielke/prediction_book/

Thanks!

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr. [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 12, 2006 09:58 PM


1. "I am very suspicious now when I see people make blanket statements because there are two sides to every issue"
2. "And in science there's almost never black and white."
3. "We don't know what next week's weather going to be."
4. "To say in 50 or 100 years, the temperature is going to do this, is a bit of a stretch for me."

Nice Rorschach blot, Mr. Pielke.

I agree wholeheartedly with statements 1, 2 and 3. As for 4, tell me what "this" means.

If it means that we have no way to ascertain in advance what the temperature will precisely be, I`d say Ms. Greene-Raine is right - besides the effects of greenhouse gases, we don`t know what people will do over 50 - 100 years to further alter the environment, and even with perfect knowledge of future human behavior can`t precisely know the output of the tremendously complicated climate system, and don`t know whether it might be interrupted by exogenous variables.

But if it means that she thinks we don`t know that pumping GHGs into the atmosphere without finding ways to remove them (so that concentrations remain at today`s levels or increase) will, other things being equal, lead to higher mean global temperatures, then I`d say she is sadly misinformed.

Posted by: TokyoTom [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 13, 2006 08:30 AM




Sitemap | Contact | Find us | Email webmaster