Of moles and whacking: “Climate models didn’t predict this lack of warming”

Or: Journalists should report what climate science actually “says”, rather than what they mistakenly “believe” it to say – Part I

Not everyone who writes misleading or confused stories on climate change does so for the partisan reasons that the Jonah Goldberg’s of the world do. Sometimes the writer is simply incorrect about what the science says, and his or her errors are made in perfectly good faith. Such problems often arise when the writer mistakes the “conventional wisdom” or individuals’ opinion on climate change for what the science actually says. A case in point is a recent column by the Houston Chronicle’s “SciGuy”, Eric Berger, entitled “Climate scientists should talk about what ‘may’ happen, rather than what ‘will’ happen”. Predictably, the post is being lauded in the denialosphere.

It appears that Mr. Berger has made some unfortunate assumptions about climate science that turn out not to be supportable. Finding these assumptions to be mistaken, Mr. Berger disappointingly chooses to blame climate scientists instead of digging a little deeper into his misconceptions to see where he went awry. Doing so ourselves may help illuminate not only how and why Mr. Berger came to such unsupportable conclusions, but also how we can avoid doing so in the future.

For a long time now, science reporters have been confidently told the science is settled.

This is an immediate red flag. Who is doing the “telling”? What makes up “the science”? What is meant by “settled” if indeed this was even claimed? Searching Google News for the “the science is settled” is quite revealing. Assertions that the claim has been made are legion while the claim itself seems to be apocryphal. This is apparently a “skeptic” canard that appears to have little or no basis in reality.

There are certainly areas where the science can said to be as “settled” as science ever is, in terms of whether questions have been asked and answered at a satisfactory enough level that those working in the field have moved on to other issues. However, there is a real danger in overextending this claim to areas where the science is still very much not “settled”. A good rule of thumb over the past few years has been to use the most recent IPCC Assessment Report as a rough approximation of the “state of the science”. In terms of whether or not the planet is warming, whether or not humans have driven most of it in the past few decades, whether or not the planet will warm to a higher equilibrium in relation to the amount of current and future GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions, and whether or not sea levels will rise appreciably in response, etc.- it’s fairly safe to say that the science is as “settled” as science tends to get. These questions- which I’ll refer to the “broad strokes” of the issue- are, after all, largely rooted in basic physics.

[There is of course a problem with using the AR4 (IPCC 4th Assessment Report) as a benchmark now that we're in the latter part of 2009, however- the AR4, published in early 2007, draws on studies  from several years ago which themselves draw on other studies older still. Thus significant conclusions reached subsequent to its writing are by definition excluded from the AR4, and such conclusions are worrisome indeed. Additionally, the requirement that countries with very different political agendas must come to an agreement likewise tends to bias the reports towards the conservative side.]

Questions regarding more complicated issues, such as the rate of ice sheet decay (collapse), the future response of ENSO (the El Niño Southern Oscillation), etc. are touched on by the AR4 but don’t receive anything approaching the confidence enjoyed by the broad strokes of the subject. It is all too common for people to overreach the broad strokes, claim that an area under debate was supposed to be “settled”, and then pounce when they perceive evidence contradicting the tentative conclusions still under discussion- it’s a cheap stunt meant to score rhetorical points and undermine political support for mitigating climate change, while illuminating nothing about the state of the science. A far less cynical corollary to this is a person unintentionally engaging in the same overreach due to his or her own misconceptions about the subject, then becoming confused when reality doesn’t match up to this incorrect expectation. This latter case seems to be what is occurring with Mr. Berger’s column, so let’s see what we can do to clarify things.

That the planet is warming and humans are unquestionably the primary cause.

I would probably amend that to read something like “unquestionably the primary cause since the latter half of the 20th century”, but it’s acceptable as is.

We’ve been told to trust the computer models –

Whoah. There’s another big, big red flag. Computer models certainly play their part in climate science and the modeling community deserves full kudos for its contributions to constraining questions relating to attribution and expected future impacts. However, “computer models” are not necessary to illustrate anthropogenic attribution (i.e. the man-made cause) of the observed warming of the climate system. Likewise, they are not necessary to establish a rough picture of how the planet will respond to future levels of increased concentrations of GHGs- we can look to paleoclimatic evidence (i.e. evidence from our planet’s past). A classic error made by both those attempting to discredit climate science as well as those who simply don’t know any better is to erroneously reduce the entire subject of climate change to computer models.

the models which show a markedly upward trend in temperatures as carbon dioxide concentrations increase. And I’ve trusted the scientists telling me this.

First of all, it’s not simply “computer models” that show this, in terms of what has already occurred. The linear relationship exists in the real world data. [Although the empirical relationship is actually logarithmic, there are additional factors at work that render the relationship linear for our purposes here]. And what does “markedly upward trend” mean here? That over a period of several decades, temperature climbs in response to increased greenhouse gas concentrations? If so, fair enough.

That isn’t what Mr. Berger seems to believe, however:

Below you’ll find the computer model forecasts for the 21st century temperatures from the most recent IPCC summary for policymakers, which call for a 1.8°C to 3.8°C rise in global temperatures by 2100:

It seems pretty clear that the models forecast a steady upward trend in global temperatures as long as carbon dioxide levels rise. (Which they have). Yet according to satellite and surface temperature measurements the global average temperature has essentially remained flat for the last 12 years. This strikes me as somewhat curious.

…And the Earth seems to have, at least temporarily, stopped warming.

Here Mr. Berger is making an all too common and easily correctable error: he is confusing the IPCC projections of the forced component of climate over time with an explicit prediction of future temperature. I realize that this sounds a little confusing, but it’s not. We just need to clarify some terms [there will be some simplification here- if you're already comfortable with this material please feel free to skip it]:

Monotonic warming: Warming that increases over time with no year cooler than the one prior. Much of the confusion- both intentional and unintentional- about how we can expect temperature to behave under global warming comes from the mistaken belief that global average temperature is predicted to warm monotonically It decidedly is not. Even as man-made influences like increased GHG emissions have greater and greater impacts on the climate system, they will not cancel out all natural variability, and thus we can expect some years to be cooler than the ones before, even as the warming trend continues over the long term.

Natural variability: In terms of climate, this refers to naturally occurring influences upon the climate system that exist independently of human-influence. Two of the largest sources of natural variability in the climate system are ocean circulation changes and changes in solar irradiance.

Individual model run or realization: For our purposes, a single output of global average temperature by a single climate model under given initialization values over time. What actually occurs in the real world is thus a “single realization” of the actual climate system instead of a climate model. Due to natural variability, neither this real world realization nor climate model runs show monotonic warming.

Ensemble average: Simply put, the ensemble average is an average of many different individual model runs. Ensemble averages tend to be more accurate in describing long term trends than individual modeling runs do. This is because the timing if not the magnitude of natural variability- like changes in ocean circulation- is difficult to predict well ahead of time, even though individual runs simulate the general behavior; i.e. climate models can mimic the effect of ENSO changes, but we still have difficulty predicting the onset of an El Niño more than a few months ahead of time. Averaging across several model runs mimicking different expressions of natural variability smooths (or cancels) out these differences.

[For example: if I have a 'Model A Run 1' showing a positive shift in natural variability beginning in 2010, reversing in 2o11, and settling into a neutral mode by 2012, while a Model A Run 2 shows a negative shift in natural variability beginning in 2010, settling into a neutral mode by 2o11 and  showing a positive shift in 2012, then the natural variability of the two runs during this time period more or less cancel out.]

Additionally, each model may capture one or more aspects of the climate system’s response to changes more realistically than the others, while capturing other aspects less realistically. Ensemble averaging smooths out these differences as well. So what you’re left with is essentially the “forced” component of temperature.

Projection vs. prediction: To simplify things somewhat, we can call the IPCC ensemble averages “projections”. These projections are by definition not explicit predictions or forecasts- we know that natural variability will still have a large influence on the climate system, especially on the shorter term, and that projections intentionally smooth this influence out. The real world single realization of the future climate system will be much “noisier” than the projections, and so at any given time can be expected to be above or below the projection.

Summary: So what the IPCC offers as a projection is an ensemble average of individual model runs. Such projections illustrate the forced component of climate over time by smoothing out natural variability and modeling errors, and are not the same thing as an explicit prediction of future temperature. If you confuse the IPCC projections with predictions, you will incorrectly assume that “climate models” say temperature should be warming monotonically. An alternative and equally incorrect claim is that “climate models” didn’t predict this “current pause” in warming.

[Note: Those of you who have read my previous post on Jonah Goldberg have already seen the following]

This issue is also explicitly addressed by Easterling and Wehner in their GRL paper Is the climate warming or cooling? They use both real world instrumental data (Fig 1) and an individual model run (Fig 2) to illustrate that natural variability can give the illusion of a pause in warming, while the long term trend remains undeniably one of warming; i.e. warming has not been, nor is it expected to be n the future, monotonic.

The individual runs that comprise the AR4 ensemble average clearly exhibit natural variability and do not predict warming will be monotonic.

Of course this has been covered many, many times elsewhere, notably by Robert Grumbine in determining climatologically significant temperature trends (and here), by Tamino in when to expect new record temperatures, and by RealClimate discussing what the IPCC models actually say.

[End of self-plagiarizing]

Further examination of Mr. Berger’s column, [UPDATE:] hurricanes, ocean circulation changes, and more to follow in Part II. We might move those to a Part III.

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27 responses to “Of moles and whacking: “Climate models didn’t predict this lack of warming”

  1. may and will aren’t the only two verbs in the scientific lexicon. There is “be:” “are likely to,” “is almost certain to.” There is “have:” “has a 90% probability of.” There are auxiliary verbs and compounds “be happening:” “is happening” “could already be happening.”

    So Mr. Houston Chronicle columnist, learn your trade better.

    From a fellow journalist.

  2. Are you actually claiming that the AGW promoters have not framed the issue as being ‘settled’?
    And defending failed models is silly enough. Doing so in a sanctimonious fashion, as you do, is borderline hilarious.
    BTW, using Tamino to defend yourself is like showing up at a knife fight with a noodle.

  3. thingsbreak,

    Very, very well put, esp. your excellent discussion of monotonic warming through ensemble average and summary that even a 5th grade mind may comprehend.

    Speaking of which, from his mindless science bashing posts on SciGuy, you’ll recognize hunter’s true calling.

  4. According to Wikipedia ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Sbandrews/the_science_is_settled) there isn’t verifiable evidence that any prominent supports of AGW have said “The science is settled”. So it appears you are technically right.

    However, they did say things like:
    “The science debate is effectively over”
    “I think that the scientific debate has now closed on global warming”
    “There’s no longer any serious debate among climate scientists about either the reality of global warming or about the fact that its substantially caused by human activity…”
    (same link)

    Doesn’t seem like a significant difference to me.

    • The point is the denialist canard that that specific claim was made is incredibly widespread. Matthew Rogers just made the same claim at the Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang blog.

      It’s one of those things that is believed and repeated uncritically by those who fancy themselves “skeptics” but are entirely undeserving of the descriptor. Any time a reader sees it, he or she should take whatever follows with an appropriate amount of salt.

      • Robert Coleman

        Mr. Berger didn’t say ‘…confidently told “the science is settled”.’; he said ‘…confidently told the science is settled.’
        The lack of double-quotes makes this part of your analysis a strawman, which is its own red flag.
        I think Bergen’s cognitive dissonance is because he’s told about individual model’s Predictions without being told that they’re worthless in themselves, that only the Projection can have any real value. If this is happening, then scientists do have the responsibility to use the right terminology and explain the concepts better, which is, IMO, what Bergen’s really saying. If they don’t, then Bergen’s cognivitive dissonance will spread to the public if the weather cools down for a decade or two.

  5. I can follow Your argument on the long term trend, however, You skip to easily the fact that if the ongoing flattening of the temperature trend will extend for another, say 10 yrs, the AGW-hypothesis has failed. There is simply no room for a non-response to the ever increasing GHG:s for 22 yrs in the AGW-hypothesis. If the temperature would fall (statistically significant), we would only need around 5-7 yrs to prove the AGW-hypothesis wrong. To say that the science is settled or something similar is just plain silly, alarmist or contrarian. Science is never settled. We haven´t even succeded in confirming which sign the feedback of increasing CO2 would lead to. (This is the most central issue in the AGW-hypothesis I believe).

    • if the ongoing flattening of the temperature trend will extend for another, say 10 yrs, the AGW-hypothesis has failed… If the temperature would fall (statistically significant), we would only need around 5-7 yrs to prove the AGW-hypothesis wrong.

      It would reflect that our current modeling efforts are failing to capture a significant multidecadal climatic feature, but it wouldn’t “falsify” the fact that CO2, CH4, etc. are GHGs. In order to “falsify AGW” in the manner most “skeptics”/denialists mean, you have to throw out entire branches of physics.

      To say that the science is settled or something similar is just plain silly, alarmist or contrarian. Science is never settled.

      As you’ll note, I said “in terms of whether questions have been asked and answered at a satisfactory enough level that those working in the field have moved on to other issues.” The scientific community has moved on from the basic questions of reality and attribution of the warming trend. Certainly someone could still overturn them, but as I said, he or she would also likely need to overturn nontrivial aspects of basic physics, so I won’t be holding my breath.

      We haven´t even succeded in confirming which sign the feedback of increasing CO2 would lead to. (This is the most central issue in the AGW-hypothesis I believe).

      We have multiple lines of evidence (both theoretical and observational) reflecting that a doubled CO2 initial forcing of ~1°C would be amplified by feedbacks (notably water vapor and ice albedo) to ~3°C.

      Something the denialists like to ignore is that the existence of sufficiently large negative feedbacks in the climate system would have prevented. or at least severely reduced in magnitude, Pleistocene glaciation cycles. Put differently, we know that there are no significantly negative feedbacks capable of limiting changes in climate on the order of ~5-6°C.

      • You say that to deny agw would mean throwing out a whole branch of physics. That’s not what we are told. We are told 97% of scientists according to surveys quoted constantly by the agw supporters and scientists that everyone believes settled : 1) that humans have caused most of the temp change in the latter half of the 20th century. 2) that the change will be large from a doubling of co2 approx 3C 3) that consequently there will be great net negative damage to living things and humans in particular as a result.

        In my opinion none of these is supportable by the science as “settled”. The ar4 ipcc concluded that the 1979-1998 warming could NOT be natural yet we see that nearly 2 decades can be flat and overwhelm co2. We know the period 1979-1998 included high solar activity and a positive PDO cycle therefore it is not impossible that a combination of these could cause the warming observed or a large fraction of that warming because the uncertainty about our understanding of the magnitude and science of these things is lacking. We saw that the El Niño of 1998 caused a massive and possibly persistent increase in temperature. The cause of that El Niño is probably not co2. There is still a lot of uncertainty about many things and relationships of things including cloud height, humidity, and deep ocean upwelling to say that we have such a high certainty of why the 1979-1998 period had a sustained rise. Our historical record has improved and with that has come the fact that its clear there is a cyclic phenomenon that is global of 1000 year duration. This is unexplained by the theory and could have had significant impact on temperatures. We know there were periods now in the past that doesn’t look like a hocky stick but looks like a wave. Therefore the statistical basis to say that we know why the 1979-1998 period saw a warming is not “settled” but it is the mantra we are fed constantly to tell us that “deniers” are morons who are religious zealots and have no science to back their skepticism. The fact is they do. All these things are in study as we speak and the magnitude of doubt is great. Yet we are told 97% of scientists believe for certain that humans caused the 1979-1998 warming. Secondly, the range of climate change in the future from an amount of co2 is not settled. Studies in peer reviewed journals show that the climate change could be as little as .6C up to 4.5C by 2100. The lack of any warming for nearly 2 decades would lead anyone with half a brain to conclude its hard to believe temperatures are going to start surging at close to the same amount as happened all of last century every decade for the next 7 decades till 2100. Who believes that? Seriously. Temps are flat even though humankind has poured almost half of all the co2 we’ve ever poured into the atmosphere in these last 16 years. How can one believe that with this massive acceleration of co2 deposit in the atmosphere that the reaction is nil? Then to say that even as we know that each co2 molecule produces less and less heating that now suddenly temperatures will suddenly jerk upward at a pace that is unprecedented and frankly unbelievable just is stupid without significant science to back it up. It’s not settled what the amount of change will be. Thirdly, we don’t know if the net impact of all of this will be negative. This is convenient to getnfundingntomclaim lotsmofnscary things are possible but realistically we know there are benefits to a warming climate andtomco2. There are mitigations against the negative effects that in many cases are simple. We know that science has found answers to pollution and many problems we’ve faced. We don’t know the impact of a temperature change if it occurs and is large. So you are right the science isntnsettlednandnthats very convenient of you to claim on the one hand science and physics would have to be overturned to invalidate agw but on the other hand to say things are not settled. I find that duplicitous and deceptive. You tell me, sir. Whatdomyounthink is settled? That co2 absorbs radiation? That’s about it. Everything else is still unsettled. That’s the fact.

      • Hi,

        Thanks for taking the time to stop by and comment. You’re arguing a number of points here that are irrelevant, incorrect, or just straw men. Not the least of which is your invocation of the “settled” shibboleth of cranks.

        That’s not what we are told. We are told 97% of scientists according to surveys quoted constantly by the agw supporters and scientists that everyone believes settled

        This is false. The ~97% figure refers to those actively publishing on climate in the refereed literature and does not get more specific than the reality of a human driver of present change.

        1) that humans have caused most of the temp change in the latter half of the 20th century.

        That is an overly conservative description as multiple recent studies have demonstrated. But this has no bearing on the ~97% figure you quoted.

        2) that the change will be large from a doubling of co2 approx 3C

        That is the consensus estimate from multiple lines of independent evidence. Again, this has no bearing on the ~97% figure you quoted.

        3) that consequently there will be great net negative damage to living things and humans in particular as a result.

        This goes well beyond the realm of the scientific, into economic and value-based considerations. You do not define “damage”. Please do so. Again, this has no bearing on the ~97% figure you quoted.

        In my opinion none of these is supportable by the science as “settled”.

        Isn’t there a saying about opinions that might be illuminating here?

  6. Hilarious. First you start with a “depends on the meaning of the word is” defense about settled science which after the smokescreen clears, you come to agree with what the skeptics have been saying along- settled science is a contradiction of terms. You then proceed to contradict yourself, saying that “In terms of whether or not the planet is warming, whether or not humans have driven most of it in the past few decades, whether or not the planet will warm to a higher equilibrium in relation to the amount of current and future GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions, and whether or not sea levels will rise appreciably in response, etc.- it’s fairly safe to say that the science is as “settled” as science tends to get.” These of course are the central questions, the only questions as far as policy makers and the public are concerned, and it is of course these central questions that we see are far from settled. Latif himself said “the NAO was probably responsible for some of the strong warming seen around the globe in the past three decades. “But how much? The jury is still out,”

    So the temperature rise upon which the consensus view is based is now seen to be at least partially due to natural effects, as well as the predicted thirty year cooling period we’ve entered.

    You argument, that physics demands that there is a man-made component to GW is completely specious. If natural variation could make the temperature 2 degrees cooler in 2100 (and there is nothing to say it couldn’t), what difference does it make that had we bankrupted the world, we might have actually have made it 3 degrees cooler?

    • RE: Claims of “settled science”

      1. The claim is almost and perhaps entirely used as a strawman by which denialists (they sure as hell aren’t skeptics) attack science.
      2. If anything can be called “settled” about science, the broad strokes of the reality and attribution facets of the subjects can be.

      There is no contradiction in these two statements.

      That ocean circulation played some part in the last several decades of warming is not in contradiction to those statements, nor the mainstream of climate science generally. Quantifying the relative contributions of natural vs. anthropogenic influences on global temperatures is not in contradiction to those statements either- constraining by how much our contribution was dominant to natural variability (and by how much ocean circulation was influential vs. solar variability) is not disputing that we were the dominant driver. You’re failing to understand pretty elementary concepts here.

      There is no “predicted thirty year cooling period”. You’re simply making things up or repeating lunacy from WUWT or some other site. Global climate models are not necessary to illustrate the reality and anthropogenic basis of the current warming, nor are they necessary to inform us about the coarse effects we can expect under BAU.

      Your final “question” is merely a string of fallacies framed in the interrogative. Argument from ignorance, appeal to consequence, reductio ad absurdum, etc. You also seem to be very confused about the annual temperature in a given year in the future vs. changes in average temperature trends of the future.

    • Thingsbreak.

      the 97% is often quoted as a figure of general scientists. As you point out it turned out that it was 75 scientists out of 5000 polled and 77 who fit the criteria of “experts, i.e. people who get paid to produce these theories believe this.”

      The APS (American Physics Society) produced a statement that said the 3 things I quoted. Again this was the work of a minority of zealots and has now produced a schism in APS. A fracture has now occurred where real physicists who have doubts about the methodology or “settledness” of the “science” of global warming were being muzzled and decided to bolt from the committee discussing these issues and in some cases permanently leaving the APS in disgust.

      On PBS recently they quoted the 97% figure to skeptical scientists over and over badgering them with how can you disagree with 97% of scientists on the science of global warming?

      You are being pedantic. Every AGW enthusiast has said these are the 3 things all scientists agree: Man is causing the temperature change, the change will be 3C and the damage will be severe from 3C. (even 2C) These are the points that are argued constantly. I don’t see your point in trying to mince words. You yourself defended these points.

      You say that my description of the effect of man is overly conservative implying man was responsible for other warming earlier in the century for instance and beyond back in time. This is bizarre as man produced virtually no Co2 prior to that and in insufficient quantities that even with the massively overly sensative response Hansen and others have postulated would not produce much warming. Yet from 1910-1940 we have a warming almost as great as the warming from 1979-1998. The IPCC could not ascribe with certainty that man caused this warming nor should they. Man probably didn’t cause the majority of warming later in the century so its absurd to think man caused the warming from 1650 on to 1950.

      The 3C figure is the consensus of a number of scientists but isn’t being born out by the raw data happening today. To get this kind of change now would almost require getting the entire warming for the entire 20th century every decade till the turn of the century. Given that we’ve poured half of what man has ever poured into the atmosphere in the last 16 years and gotten nil response from the environment it is ludicrous to imagine that suddenly temperatures will start bolting up at unbelievable rates to meet the IPCC targets. Why? How? Science requires explanation. One cannot simple appeal to faith. Just saying thats what we see in the paleo record doesn’t convince for somebody who can do math and see that achieving what the IPCC and Hansen, etc… are calling the median result is crazy just on the basis of how? How do temperatures do that given the facts I just presented which is that we poured half of all the co2 ever poured in to the atmosphere and got a nil response. If there is heat being stored ready to bolt out and pump into the atmosphere can you tell us where that energy is located? Can you show one reason why we should believe that temperatures are suddenly going to surge after the last 16 years the environment has apparently vented the heat to space or somehow the heat was never generated in the first place.

      As far as the damage goes this is par for the course. The scientific community has been pouring out billions of dollars in reports telling us how 50% of species will be dead by 2050 let alone 2100, that most creatures can’t take a degree or two now even though they’ve endured temperature changes of a dozen degrees numerous times over millions of years. We are told malaria will infect everyone by 2100 when we very well will have a vaccine by then, that the food supply will drop when humans have doubled, tripled, quadrupled food productivity with technology and will likely do so again with genetics. Somehow all of that stops when global warming of a few degrees happens. It’s insane. These are prognostications not worth $2 let alone $2 billion dollars. Yet we all pay for incredible amounts of bogus research on the basis of models that have no proven validity.

      • I wish to point out and add what i think is a salient point.

        The proponents keep pointing out they’ve only missed by a “small window.” Hansen himself puts up chart after chart showing how a miss of 8 or 10 years is not uncommon. The thing I don’t see mentioned is that these models have only been in existence a short time. The data we have is short that is robust and comprehensive. To some extent the only really believable data is data since the satellite record and the ARGO buoy system was installed. Prior to this we have too few data points with too little accuracy to make the same claims about “global” anything. We have one antarctic station prior to 1955 for a continent bigger than almost any other continent. We have dozens of boreholes worldwide that are not evenly distributed and ocean “forgeddaboudit”. The only thing we capture in boreholes is CO2, a few other gases. We have a very incomplete record yet we can use proxies to try to model things and presumably this all helps but the fact I am trying to make clear is that really this whole endeavor has been started since 1989 or so. It is a field that is 20 years old with data that is roughly the same length of time.

        Best attempts to get a handle on all the proxies to go back hundreds of years but if you look at the error bars they are very large. You can average over all the data but the potential we are off on the real temperature in the past could be very real. We only recently captured enough proxy data to finally prove that there is a 1000 year cycle of temperature that is global. That represents a massive error from the point of view of the alternative which was the hockey stick.

        So, we have 20 years or so of good data. They make predictions based on models starting in 1989, fitting the data to the models pretty much in real time. Yet by 2010 just halfway into the entire period they are off by 0.4C in the predicted / projected temperature. Hansen can say all he wants that it’s a small miss, it’s expected to have these “pauses” but the fact is that the moment he made a prediction that the models fail. This is a different failure from say a model which historically had worked well for hundreds of years and then there is a statistical improbable event. What are the chances that just as they produce their model they are struck with a statistically 10 or 5% chance event? This is much more damaging than the former scenario because these models have not established any credibility to start with. Hindcasting is useful for parameterizing models and checking basic things but it can’t be used for validating models correctness. That is circular. Whether or not they admit that the models are “fit” to the data they are because if they didn’t fit the data they would be thrown out. They are constantly being “improved” in ways which confirm the historical data. Therefore conciously or subconciously the models are fits to the hindcast data. This data is also suspect so they may be fitting to wrong data as in the case of the MWP and LIA.

        Therefore this is damning point. The models first predictions fail. That’s pretty much death. I don’t know a branch of science where you make a model and then you get to take 15 years of nonconformance with your model and beg for another 15 years to see if you are right. They failed their first test after being fit for past data. That’s pretty much proof that they are not based on real physical processes that exist in the real world. This is exactly what you’d expect from a cheap “curve fit” to the data that the very next point in time would be an error. That’s exactly what we see. These models behave like they are simply an expensive complicated fit to data with no objective basis in reality. That’s all anyone would reasonably expect of them given the situation. Therefore it is necessary for them to prove efficacy by experiment and time but they have failed so it’s back to the drawing board and as far as validation or predictive power we have to ignore them.

        I don’t see how any reasonable scientist can come to any other conclusion.

  7. “RE: Claims of “settled science”

    1. The claim is almost and perhaps entirely used as a strawman by which denialists (they sure as hell aren’t skeptics) attack science.
    2. If anything can be called “settled” about science, the broad strokes of the reality and attribution facets of the subjects can be. ”

    Your defense to Mr. Cormack’s excellent point above is to point out that the short-hand phrase “settled science” is not found in the literature, completely ignoring his point that the phrases that are found in the literature are equivalent in effect. Distinctions without differences do not an argument make. Here you attempt to argue by reverse appeal to authority (points for novelty). I.e., those discredited deniers use this phrase against us, the enlightened vessels of Truth, which in an of itself removes any obligation we might otherwise have to respond to the actual substance of the charge. Again, congrats on the great gig you’ve landed for yourself.

    As to the rest of your screed, you argue here as elsewhere that the relative scale of these effects (natural variation vs. anthropomorphic) is of no import, when it is in fact central to all but the most academic of questions. If CO2 effects on climate are as Prof. Ball analogizes, a lug-nut on the right wheel of the car, but is still of research interest to you, by all means go knock yourself out. Whatever floats your boat. Just don’t be surprised if the rest of us don’t want to suffer a massive reduction in our quality of life just to make you feel relevant. Letif himself admits that “the jury is still out” on the scale of the natural effects, yet you have already executed the accused.

    The pattern that emerges from those who are making a living off the global warming hysteria (or have an anti-capitalistic axe to grind, or both) is this; Stand silent when the mainstream media jumps to unsupported conclusions about a bad hurricane year or a drought somewhere being attributable to AWG then scream like stuck hogs when the same media draws a conclusion (from published results no less) that the author wishes could have been kept within the circle of kool-aide drinkers. Makes one wonder about the objectivity of those involved.

    • Apocryphally attributed to or spoken by a politician doesn’t mean appearing in the scientific literature. It’s a denialist strawman set up merely to be knocked down. It’s particularly amusing because this same claim is made by those who claim that climate scientists are somehow in this for the sweet, sweet grant money, which would be a neat trick to pull off while telling everyone that the “science is settled”.

      Pointing out that Berger was repeating not something that is actually claimed but rather a denialist strawman isn’t an attempt to ad hom Berger with a guilt by association attack. It is simply illustrating that this canard is brought up yet again, not by anyone in the field, but by someone claiming it has been while offering no evidence for such. Berger’s use provided a near perfect example, something that would benefit any readers unfamiliar with the tactic to see for themselves.

      And now I see that you’re citing Tim Ball as some sort of credible authority on climate change, and ranting hysterically about the Great Climate Alarmism Gravy Train. Right.

      We’re done here.

  8. Pingback: The North Atlantic is cooling because the Greenland ice sheet is melting « Xenophilia (True Strange Stuff)

  9. “if the ongoing flattening of the temperature trend will extend for another, say 10 yrs, the AGW-hypothesis has failed… If the temperature would fall (statistically significant), we would only need around 5-7 yrs to prove the AGW-hypothesis wrong.”

    “It would reflect that our current modeling efforts are failing to capture a significant multidecadal climatic feature, but it wouldn’t “falsify” the fact that CO2, CH4, etc. are GHGs. ”

    As if anyone is denying that CO2, CH4, etc. are GHGs. You are aware one would presume, that GHGs are necessary for creating the climatic conditions necessary to support our global population. The question is not whether CO2 contributes to climate change, it unquestionably does. The question is whether the small percentage of CO2 (which is itself just a trace element in the atmosphere) attributable to human activity presents any significant threat to our environment. If anthropogenic effects are being swamped by natural variations and other unmodeled “climatic features”, the models are useless as a policy tool and mitigation efforts are fruitless and may in fact be counterproductive if one uses quality of life as the metric.

  10. ThingsBreak:

    Since you’ve gotten mostly negative feedback from this article and must be as frustrated as I am reading it all, I thought I’d just send a high-five your way. Nice article with generally good explanations.

    To the rest of you:
    Guys, you seem to be missing one of the main points ThingsBreak wrote. Yes, he said that the broad strokes of climate change are mostly settled. That’s not the same thing as saying that every detail is settled or even well-understood. I work in the field. I invite all of you skeptics to attend this year’s American Geophysical Union conference in San Fran in December, to hear the debate as it happens. You won’t hear anyone claiming that the world is cooling IN THE LONG TERM, but you may hear some saying that in the next decade or two, things may warm slower (or faster) than we expected.

    You’ll also hear reports about climate change that are not based on direct temperature measurements. We don’t NEED to know the mean global temperature to measure how much sea level is rising or how fast the ice caps and glaciers are melting. We can (and have) measure those “indirect” pieces of climate change evidence using multiple methods, both ground-based and satellite-based. The exact amount of the sea level and ice melt change is debated, but within limits (ie: error bars) — and all of the evidence points to increasing sea level and ice melt.

    Folks, there’s a difference between short-term change and long-term change. That’s one of the things ThingsBreak was trying to show. No one pretends that ANY climate model will show all the bumps up and down that occur from year to year. What we do claim is that the general direction of climate change is known (ie: its increasing). I encourage you to actually do some research and see why that is, along with learning where the places are where “the science” is less certain.

    • Thanks for the kind words and the comments, Jenni. It’s invaluable for people to see that it’s not merely a few voices in the blogosphere or in the media that agree on the broad strokes of the issue.

  11. Pingback: Digg users hoaxed by Earthsuckers, again « Greenfyre’s

  12. The “science” that is alleged to be “settled” is a pseudoscience. According to the climatologist Kevin Trenberth ( http://blogs.nature.com/climatefeedback/recent_contributors/kevin_trenberth/ ), the UN-IPCC’s climate models do not make predictions. It follows that: a) these models are not falsifiable and b) these models lie outside science.

  13. Terry, you wrote:
    “the UN-IPCC’s climate models do not make predictions. It follows that: a) these models are not falsifiable and b) these models lie outside science.”

    You’re right, of course, that climate models aren’t “predictions” in the sense that they aren’t going to tell you what, say, the mean global temperature is going to be on March 24, 2100. But then, the scientists who make them know that, which is why they specifically say NOT to use the models to look for specifics, but rather to use them to get general trends (and preferably, use an emsemble average of the models to do that!). So, yes, by a strict standard, the models are not “falsifiable”.

    But to claim that not meeting strict, exacting falsibility tests means the models are useless and “outside science” is untrue. They are still very useful (especially as an ensemble) for probabilistic studies of what MIGHT happen.

    Let me give you a simple example of how a probabilistic model can be both completely non-falsifiable, and still meaningful: the flipping of a simple coin. Every highschooler knows that the probability of flipping “heads” is 50%, as is the probability of flipping “tails”. If I use this simple probability “model”, I can make a meaningful statement, like: “You have a 25% chance of flipping two heads in a row.” That statement is TRUE, but it cannot be falsifiable. It’s NOT a guarrantee that your next two coin flips will be heads. Nor is it even a guarrantee that of 100 coin flips, 25 will be heads! On the other hand, it’s still a “scientific” statement, and one that’s meaningful and useful.

    Similarly, the much more complicated climatology models are probabilistic, rather than specific. They tell probable outcomes, not guarranteed ones. That’s why climatologists are always trying to separate “climate” studies from “weather” studies (which try to give more exact, specific results)

    • Jenni,

      Quantum mechanics is sciences greatest achievement. It is probabilistic. A calculation from quantum mechanics can tell us to 10 digits the probability of some outcome but never the exact outcome. In this way you are saying the models are like climate models.

      Quantum mechanics has been tested billions, nay, trillions of times and it has proven always right to 10 decimal places. It is the thing we know most true in all the world of all scientific knowledge.

      Climate models have zero in common with quantum mechanics. The only real test of climate models is the data we are getting today for the last 15-20 years. The models have failed miserably to predict anything that has happened in the real world. Not just temperature but humidity, rainfall, droughts, flooding, storm activity, jet currents, ocean temperatures, ENSO, cloud cover or cloudiness in general. I could go on.

      You say the trend is “increasing.” That’s a great statement. You violated what you said in the beginning. In what time frame? In the next 10, 100, 1000 years? You said they can’t predict specific dates but we know they failed miserably in predicting the trend for 17 years now. How about 100? Do we really know that in 100 years it is increasing? Why is this prediction/projection any better than 20 years? How about 1000? We may be in the next ice age in 1000 years and it may be 5 degrees colder. So, increasing is meaningless. Increasing in what time frame with what probability? I am 100% sure that if I had asked at the AR4 or AR3 conference that in 2012 the temperaure would be unchanged from the conference time they would scoff and say that is impossible, a 2% chance or less. They would have all taken my bet and lined up to take that bet. The confidence was extreme. There were statements we were 95% certain of this and that.

      Excuse me if I and I believe most rational people don’t believe you or any of your models until they actually seem to work. We aren’t taking unproven conjectures with no test results to back them up regardless of what you or other scientists.

  14. The writer’s statement that the IPCC assessment report is a good measure of science that is “settled”, is way off base. In the words of many IPCC scientists, the science isn’t even vary well understood… let alone settled! See below:
    NASA climate modeler Gavin Schmidt — admitted last week that the “chaotic component of climate system…is not predictable beyond two weeks, even theoretically.”
    Schmidt noted that some climate models “suggest very strongly” that the American Southwest will dry in a warming world. But Schmidt also noted that “other models suggest the exact opposite.”
    In June 2007, Dr. Jim Renwick, a top UN IPCC scientist, admitted that climate models do not account for half the variability in nature and thus are not reliable. “Half of the variability in the climate system is not predictable, so we don’t expect to do terrifically well,” Renwick conceded. (LINK)

    Another high-profile UN IPCC lead author, Dr. Kevin Trenberth, echoed Renwick’s sentiments in 2007 about climate models by referring to them as “story lines.”
    “In fact there are no predictions by IPCC at all. And there never have been. The IPCC instead proffers ‘what if’ projections of future climate that correspond to certain emissions scenarios,” Trenberth wrote in journal Nature’s blog on June 4, 2007.

    IPCC reviewer and climate researcher Dr Vincent Gray, of New Zealand, an expert reviewer on every single draft of the IPCC reports going back to 1990, author of more than 100 scientific publications and author of The Greenhouse Delusion: A Critique of “Climate Change 2001,” declared “The claims of the IPCC are dangerous unscientific nonsense” in an April 10, 2007 article. (LINK) & (LINK)

    “All [UN IPCC does] is make ‘projections’ and ‘estimates’. No climate model has ever been properly tested, which is what ‘validation’ means, and their ‘projections’ are nothing more than the opinions of ‘experts’ with a conflict of interest, because they are paid to produce the models. There is no actual scientific evidence for all these ‘projections’ and ‘estimates,’” Gray noted.

    On a New Zealand radio interview in 2007, the late Atmospheric Scientist Augie Auer ridiculed climate model predictions: “Most of these climate predictions or models, they are about a half a step ahead of PlayStation 3 [video games]. They’re really not justified in what they are saying. Many of the assumptions going into [the models] are simply not right.” (LINK)

    Atmospheric physicist James Peden ridiculed climate models in October 2008, calling them “computerised tinker toys with which one can construct any outcome he chooses.” (LINK)
    Prominent Physicist Freeman Dyson has referred to climate models as “rubbish.”
    Scientists Claim Computer Model Predictions are ‘Useless Arithmetic’- February 20, 2007 – Orrin H. Pilkey, a coastal geologist and emeritus professor at Duke and his daughter Linda Pilkey-Jarvis, a geologist in the Washington State Department of Geology, wrote a book in 2007 entitled “Useless Arithmetic: Why Environmental Scientists Can’t Predict the Future.” The new book presents “an overall attack on the use of computer programs to model nature,”

    So what is “settled” sees to be that the IPCC reports are merely “junk science.”


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