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A projection of future drought one can't believe

Rob Wile of Business Insider discussed a climate survey prepared by the U.S. Commerce Department (with some well-known alarmists in the team of authors). Among other things, he reprinted Figure 2.21 from that draft paper:

It shows that the percentage of the territory of the United States and Mexico that will experience drought will suddenly take off and reach something like 0.3 if not more than 0.5 by 2100 even though the recent values are close to 0.01-0.02 or so. Just look at the picture and think about it. Is it a plausible outcome of viable models of the climate?

I have picked a very particular, tangible example but similar projections are everywhere and all of them are equally absurd.

You see that the graph (just like many other similar graphs) may be divided into two parts: the past prior to 2013 where the observed reality of drought is known, it is unspectacular and more or less unchanging, and models are in trouble if they retrodict or "predict" something dramatically different from the initial conditions in the distant past.

The other part is the future. No one knows "for sure" what percentage of Northern America will experience drought so allowed speculations are almost unrestricted and tens of thousands of people literally make their living out of exploiting this apparent "freedom".

We see that they claim to have models that agree that the areas facing drought always covered one or two percent of the territory in average (over some time or over ensembles of similar virtual worlds). And the same models are claimed to imply that in every decade starting from now, the percentage experiencing drought will jump by 5 percentage points or so.

Is that possible? You see that the year 2013 – roughly speaking – represents a discontinuity in the first derivative of the blue line. The line is continuous but its slope is pretty much zero before 2013 but significantly increasing afterwords, especially after 2025. Why it's always the present that displays such a discontinuity?

The model would have to contain some "mechanism" that can calculate the date of the present, 2013. Something has to be special about the years 2013-2025 or so. Something that was negligible in all the previous decades before 2013 must suddenly become very important after 2013. Can this be the case?

One can't "rigorously rule it out". There may be a "tipping point". But in the absence of a solid argument that something like that exists, a sensible person simply has to conclude that such a qualitative change of the behavior of the climate exactly in the year 2013 (or even in the coming decade) is wildly unlikely. A common-sense evaluation of the experience and observations throughout the 20th century (and some data we know about arbitrarily earlier epochs) is simply more robust than some speculative models that were engineered for a given purpose and that almost universally disagree at least with some important properties of the climate we have learned from observations in the past.

The Earth is 4.7 billion years old and there's quite some evidence that the weather in the recent million of years, to say the least, only included variations and cycles of a kind we may imagine, a kind similar to what we know: the Milankovitch-cycle-driven ice ages are the only new feature we must add relatively to the behavior we know from our real lives or credible stories reported by other folks. So why should exactly the years 2013-2025 be the exceptions among the millions or billions of years? The probability of that is clearly one part in a million or a one part in a billion or something of this type.

The trend of the global temperature increase averaged over a 30-year window has been pretty much the same what it is today at least for 100 years (and arguably during a significant fraction not too far from 1/2 of the Earth's geological history, too). Even the CO2 emissions (which almost certainly may influence the climate through their effect on the global mean temperature only – and this influence is very, very weak) have been pretty much equal to their current magnitude for many decades, let's say 30-40 years, depending on what you mean by "pretty much equal".

So how can the predicted "mean extreme drought" (the blue curve) be 10 times greater in 2050 than today even though, for example, the CO2 concentrations will be just 70 ppm above their current levels (we have already increased CO2 by more than 110 ppm relatively to the pre-industrial years) and the temperatures won't be more than 1 °C different from the present ones even according to the crazily oversensitive IPCC models (just like the widely believed temperature increase over the 20th century)?

It makes no sense. Models that may predict these previously unseen, sudden "huge reactions" to "small changes" of the parameters must either directly contradict the actual observed conditions prior to 2013 or they must contain wildly unsmooth or discontinuous functions or they must depend on special, targeted adjustments or new effects that start to become important after 2013. Most likely, the models have to suffer from several of these problems at the same moment. One would be enough to be forced to abandon the model.

Both of the last two features are highly unnatural – and for this reason, we must say that they are extremely unlikely. If a model predicts the mean area suffering from extreme drought to be below 3% (to be somewhat safe) at every moment before 2013, it's clearly unlikely that assuming that the model is natural and physically plausible, it will predict an above 10% figure at every moment after 2060. These two properties just don't add up. There is absolutely nothing special about the global mean temperature 16 °C relatively to 14 °C or 15 °C. There is nothing special about 450 ppm of CO2 relatively to 395 ppm or 300 ppm. The next "special points" that may be justified are near 100 °C when water boils or 20,000 ppm of CO2 when animals start to feel dizzy because of the increased CO2 concentration. But whether we have 390 °C or 450 °C can make no qualitative difference.

Even if some quantity such as "area plagued by severe drought" in the U.S. depended on a tipping point whose location isn't quite known, the precise timing of such points would almost certainly depend on the question you ask (drought in the U.S.; sudden melting of the Greenland; sudden melting of the Himalayan glaciers, and so on). It's virtually impossible that all these things would start to behave "dramatically" and "very differently" exactly sometime in the 21st century. Or in the next 10 years, if you want to talk about even more contrived claims.

The idea that the present is "this special" and we are surely entering "the era of doom" is religious in character.

Every person who wants to believe some nonsensical miracles and judgment days must believe that the present is kind of special. It is a critical point. Why? The past must be "ordinary" and mostly obeying the laws of physics because people have witnessed that this has been the case although most of them can't understand their observations at the physics level of rigor and accuracy.

At the same moment, the future must bring something new, miraculous, remarkable for the faith instincts of these folks (or for their propagandist goals) to be satisfied. It doesn't obey the effective laws of physics we may reconstruct from the past events. The transition point between the past and the future, i.e. the present, is therefore a crossover point when the usual laws of physics cease to hold. That's why Jehovah's Witnesses could have repeatedly claimed that the second coming of Jesus Christ was imminent. They were just postponing the deadlines when their older deadlines didn't work. When they have done so 10 times or so, they became a bit more careful.

The climate alarmists are crackpots of a closely related type as Jehovah's Witnesses. However, they lack the hindsight, experience, and the related relative wisdom of the Jehovah's Witnesses. They have only postponed the date for the "doom" two or three times which seems OK to them so these bigots still feel self-confident about their crackpot prophesies of climate problems. Or maybe they know that their position is indefensible but they still find a sufficient amount of gullible listeners who are ready to buy their stuff.

But rationally thinking people know that these things are indefensible even after the judgment day was postponed "just" 2 or 3 days. They were arguably indefensible even before the first major failed prediction.

There is absolutely no reason independent on prejudices to think that climate problems will become qualitatively more important in the next 100 years than they have been in the past. When you trace the justifications behind the claims to the contrary, you will find out that in every single individual case, the alarmists reached this conclusion because they assumed it from the very beginning. They wanted to find out some details about the climate Armageddon in the next 100 years so they did. They didn't have the freedom to even question whether the idea of a climate problem in the 21st century holds water. It would be a blasphemy. Whole institutions were built within the limits of the enforced belief in the basic wisdom of the doom and the members are only allowed to study the details of the doom. Some individual members of these institutions may have perhaps reached the catastrophic conclusions "honestly" but it doesn't make things any better because the people doing the particular mistakes needed for this conclusion were politically cherry-picked because they were convenient. So despite one or two honest members in the IPCC, it's still true that the institution reached its conclusions dishonestly.

That's the main reason why the climate alarmists are deluded religious crackpots, not rational people who may be sensibly talked to. Their main methodology isn't an impartial and precise evaluation of the empirical evidence; their main methodology is the search for hints that are compatible with their own preconceived belief in the judgment day.

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snail feedback (12) :

reader Shannon said...

Psychologists all confess that you have to "accentuate the effects of climate change" in order to scare the people. Fear is the best catalyst they say.
I think that this is bullshit. People don't like to be feared as much as they don't like these ecologists wagging the finger at them.

reader George Christodoulides said...

two years ago we had someone talk about climate change in the region. the guy is a director of an institute in germany and is supposed to be one of the best in the world.

he did different extrapolations with different conditions and was saying that in 50 years the temperature will be 50-60-70 degrees Celsius. he was saying that the temperature would be twice as much in decades.

i told him that with let's say radio sources you can extrapolate to higher frequencies using a lower frequency but the extrapolation could have huge errors. although there could be bigger or smaller errors the extrapolation is based on some trends and observations over different frequencies.

i asked him on what model he based his extrapolations, what place, over what period of time, if there was a similar trend 50 or 100 years ago
on which he based the extrapolation and his answer was as if i was not making sense and then another guy supported global warming and was talking as if i was crazy.

anyway he didn't tell me on which model and how he based the extrapolations, he just did them. i told them that i did not know enough about the subject but how could they support such claims or how do they know which is the mechanism for the warming.

does anyone know on what empirical evidence they support such claims? he was claiming that in 50 years the temperature in the mediterranean would double.

reader James Gallagher said...

Climate "science" is clearly not science.

The state-of-the-art models have disclaimers like "assuming no volcanic eruptions" etc - oh they mean assuming nothing not predicted by their ridiculously simplistic and idiotic model occurs.

Of course, their models will never be complete, so any inaccuracies will be attributed to any kind of shit they can dream up.

Fucking hell, I can't believe I was starting to think these people might have discovered some obvious (can't be ignored) "trend". They are imbeciles, it's shocking, criminal, hilarious, embarrassing.

reader Eyal said...

Didn't they tell us that because of global warming there will be more water vapor in the air, hence more rain?

reader anna v said...

Two observation to add to the improbability of such plots.

From dust measurements in ice core records, droughts happen in the ice
ages, not in the warm period we are riding now.

The reason is that ice traps a lot of the surface water and there is less precipitation and huge tracts of land become desert.

general circulation models they are using predict more precipitation ,
which is the effect of glacier melting at the poles and increasing
surface area of water by inundation and precipitation by higher

2) A hydrologist at National Technical University
in Athens has a series of publications which show that the hydrological
predictions of the GCM are no better locally than throwing dice. . I think there is a more recent
link where they have checked over 50 stations over the world and the
conclusion is the same.

IMO climate alarmists work on the
principle of the latin proverb: "Calumniate, calumniate, some of it
will stick!”. An they are getting more desperate as time runs out for

reader papertiger0 said...

In Sacramento they have been preparing the battle space for the next phase. They use the carefully picked rain guage and the arbitrarily decided most recent 30 year record as the climate rather than as the barest minimum of a climate trend, or in other words the way it was sold to us.

Objectively the NCDC red line shows a trend from the 1930's of fewer droughts and more rain. So what will they do next? Why they will take the best 30 years for rain, call it average, then sell any future years that come short as drought.

reader papertiger0 said...

"Whole institutions were built within the limits of the enforced belief in the basic wisdom of the doom and the members are only allowed to study the details of the doom."

How do we know that Roy Spencer and his radiometer isn't also held in the thrawl of this basic wisdom? Is he not also a product of the institution? And isn't he the one claiming an elaborate molecular level work around so that the greenhouse effect doesn't violate the law of entropy?

reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear papertiger, there are lots of possible worries linked to the reliability of the microwave probes Spencer and others are using. After all, they have repeatedly declared some of their datasets to be invalid due to serious enough errors.

But what he is saying about the theory is rather plain physics that has been mostly known since the 19th century and that each serious enough physicist "rediscovers" as he or she is learning the subject. I've shared no institutions with Roy Spencer whatsoever and I really learned these things almost 10,000 km away from him and in a totally different - and until "recently", politically opposing - part of the world. But we agree about these things because the evidence combined with logical reasoning makes all these conclusions inevitable.

reader Dilaton said...

Sorry Anna that I have to ping you here, but cant you write a nice, upvotable answer to this?

This horrible Sklivvz troll, together with his pack of Skeptic and SE staff friends, is trying to completely taking over the site. All he does is trying to enforce the same large amount of bad and unneeded policying I have observed on MSO, on Physics SE too. He constantly piques people to downvote, closevote, and delete good content for no good reason all the time, if one considers "Sklivvz's personal power trip to satisfy his morbide needs" not a legitimate reason. And Manishearth and David Zaslavsky actually support and defend him against any slightest critique or disagreement. He is not a physicist, he does not even know the difference between quantum gravity and quantum interpretation for example, and he does nothing to increase the level or the good content of the site. All he does is focusing on closing, deleting, and downvoting of existing content (he does not understand!) without contribution anything positive.

Some reasonable established, high rep users should really stop him :-( ...

I'll follow Eugene Seidel's advice to hold myself back concerning too visible protests now. I'm sure I am on Manishearth's and David Zaskavsky's radar. David has started to delete everything I (and sometimes even Lumo!) says which tries to counteract the bad things happening at Physics SE, as "inappropriate".

reader anna v said...

Dear Dilaton

Please keep your cool. It is not necessary to see conspiracies everywhere . Where stupidity can be applied or short sightedness, it should. I check skivvz's edits and they are innocuous, spelling and format, and that is a plus if somebody wants to spend time as editor. If I see content changed then I would interfere for sure. I do not think anybody will go again through all the LHC posts. It is obsessive compulsive to be going back over old stuff.

cheer up


reader Dilaton said...

Thanks Anna for your nice answer over there.

Well, if Sklivvz enjoys doing minor spelling and formal edits, that is fine of course.

But he is not a physicist, he is a certainly very capaple programmer. I have often observed that he does not understand physics, and therefore what is written in questions and answers well enough.

So he should not be running around and trying to tell people what is correct physics. He makes blatant mistakes in doing this which is damaging the site.

For example, you have certainly noted too that he successfully managed to get one of Rons decent answer downvoted to a temporatiry negative score.

Seven downvotes occured after he has started to complain about it.
I complained this it but David has deleted all my comments. David and Mansishearth too blindly support Sklivvz, whateve he does and regardless if it is wrong or harmful. I never saw them contradicting him.

His poking around by meta suggestions is at best useless and timeconsuming for everybody, in the worst case it is a real threat to damage the site further.
You have certainly seen from his comments answering you that he is very stubborn.

reader geeyore said...

Lubos, you said "the alarmists reached this conclusion because they assumed it from the very beginning.... Whole institutions were built within the limits of the enforced belief in the basic wisdom of the doom and the members are only allowed to study the details of the doom.... despite one or two honest members in the IPCC, it's still true that the institution reached its conclusions dishonestly."

And this is not mere conjecture or deduction on your part, but also absolutely demonstrable fact, as evidenced in the 1988 IPCC Charter, here:

Where in the first three paragraphs alone they describe climate change as "threatening." "severe," and "catastrophic." In December 1988.

Of course every particle of the IPCC Charter is riddled with those predefined conclusions, but the underlying theme is also evident: "more money, more parties, and more lux trips to Bali, Rio, and Copenhagen."