Friday, February 26, 2010

Reuters about "lull" in global warming

Yesterday, Reuters ran the following story by Wynn and Doyle:
Scientists examine causes for lull in warming
I want to discuss in detail how their reasoning disagrees with the scientific logic - and with the basic principles of journalism - in almost every step. First, the very words "lull in warming" presupposes that the climate can only be "warming" or be in a "lull". Well, no, it can also be cooling. The recent lull may be followed by a longer lull, cooling, or warming, depending on many details. But there's much more wrong stuff in the text.
LONDON/OSLO (Reuters) - Climate scientists must do more to work out how exceptionally cold winters or a dip in world temperatures fit their theories of global warming, if they are to persuade an increasingly skeptical public.
However, the purpose of science is not to "persuade the public" about pre-existing answers. The purpose of science is to find the correct answers to so-far unanswered questions about Nature. The beginning of the sentence above confirms a very well-known and obvious fact that there exists no framework that would predict that e.g. Winter 2009/2010 should be very harsh in the U.K. - at least not years in advance.

And there exists no explanation, within a "dangerous man-made global warming theory", that would explain why there has been no statistically significant warming since 1995 even though the total warming should have been 0.4 °C or so. You may say it's a travesty that there's no such known explanation but it's better to avoid emotional labels: it's just a fact that this observation is "unexplained" within the framework. More than a quarter of a degree of discrepancy between the models and reality has been accumulated just in 15 years. And recall that people should be "persuaded" to be worried just because half a degree that was added during a whole century.

Because there's no explanation of the "lull", no one can know what the right explanation actually is. Not even Reuters' own pushy writers. It's just not logically possible to know something that is not known. So it's obvious that the right explanation can be that the "lull" in global warming actually shows that the AGW hypothesis is wrong - whatever the hypothesis exactly is (no one has formulated it quantitatively enough: it's a vague collection of superstitions and guesses at this point). The evidence may falsify it. One piece of powerful enough empirical evidence that disagrees with a hypothesis is enough to falsify it.

There exists no proof - and really, no evidence whatsoever - that such falsification can't or won't occur (or hasn't occurred). There's no evidence that the falsification is a wrong interpretation of the disagreement. So obviously, the "lull" may be an empirical argument that makes this hypothesis collapse whether someone likes it or not.

So pushy ideologues like Wynn and Doyle should stop trying to intimidate scientists into getting results of a particular kind. The task for scientists is clearly to find out what the causes of the "lull" are, which hypotheses are excluded by it, and which hypotheses may survive. In particular, one of their tasks is to find out whether any model with a substantial effect of the CO2 has any chance to survive this empirical evidence. Their task is definitely not to "persuade" the public about an explanation with a particular "flavor" that doesn't yet exist, as the journalists admit. Whoever disagrees with this point shouldn't be a scientist.
At stake is public belief that greenhouse gas emissions are warming the planet, and political momentum to act as governments struggle to agree a climate treaty which could direct trillions of dollars into renewable energy, away from fossil fuels.
These stakes are pretty high except that Wynn and Doyle got the signs wrong. What is yet to be seen is whether the public will be able to find the right answer despite the tons of lies and distortions that people like Doyle have been producing for years - and still want to produce. Some politicians may "struggle" to undermine one sector of the existing economy or another: but it would be much nicer if they were "struggling" to understand the truth about the climate in an impartial way and if they "struggled" to carefully think how they should behave to help their nations.

Pushy demagogues like Wynn and Doyle make it harder because many scientists are just not strong enough to pursue their research honestly despite the threat that the likes of Wynn and Doyle will be slinging mud on them.
Public conviction of global warming's risks may have been undermined by an error in a U.N. panel report exaggerating the pace of melt of Himalayan glaciers and by the disclosure of hacked emails revealing scientists sniping at skeptics, who leapt on these as evidence of data fixing.
It's just incredible how much completely unjustified and unjustifiable belief these guys inject into their slogans. Do they understand the possibility that the proponents of a particular scientific hypothesis may be wrong?

That hypotheses in science are not dogmas that are obliged to survive every test? The dichotomy between "scientists" and "skeptics" in their sentence shows that the journalists completely misunderstand what science is. The skeptics may be right and most likely, they are. Scientists are not a complementary set of skeptics. Scientists are and must be skeptics. That's still not enough for their hypotheses to be right. Some hypotheses are right and some hypotheses are wrong.

The degree of Wynn's and Doyle's bias proves that they are just incapable of being impartial journalists.
Scientists said they must explain better how a freezing winter this year in parts of the northern hemisphere and a break in a rising trend in global temperatures since 1998 can happen when heat-trapping gases are pouring into the atmosphere.
It can happen simply because it was always happening and the "trapping" has a negligible effect, so it can't change anything about the fact that different kinds of weather come during different winters. And this will always be the case.

Even if there's a hidden underlying trend, its impact on the following winter or two or three or ten will clearly be negligible relatively to the unpredictable "noise". This obvious qualitative explanation seems to be a heresy for the inkspillers. They want the readers to think that they're not even allowed to say or think about such a heretical explanation.
"There is a lack of consensus," said Kevin Trenberth, head of the Climate Analysis Section at the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research, on why global temperatures have not matched a peak set in 1998, or in 2005 according to one U.S. analysis.
It's great that Trenberth may be quoted that there's suddenly no consensus but the consensus still doesn't matter. The lack of the consensus is not the reason why people can't predict winters for decades in advance. The reason is that there's simply no empirically verified theory that would be able to perform such a herculean task.
Part of the explanation could be a failure to account for rapid warming in parts of the Arctic, where sea ice had melted, and where there were fewer monitoring stations, he said.
The disagreement must surely be due to some "error of measurement" because the hypothesis that is being tested is really a dogma, right? Wynn and Doyle, you're just not getting anything.
"I think we need better analysis of what's going on on a routine basis so that everyone, politicians and the general public, are informed about our current understanding of what is happening, more statements in a much quicker fashion instead of waiting for another six years for the next IPCC report."
This is just not possible to guarantee. A predictive theory for the weather that would work for years in advance hasn't been found during many centuries of scientific research so it's pretty unlikely that it will suddenly be found before an artificial five-year deadline. Science just doesn't work and cannot work in this way - although lots of Smolins want to believe it does. Deadlines are not helpful to find the right theories in any way.

The right theories emerge when a sufficient amount of evidence, collected data, creative ideas, hard work, and good luck meet at one place. Sometimes it takes two hours, sometimes it takes 300 years. Sometimes it's too hard for the mankind.
"Solar might be one part of it," said the Hadley's Jeff Knight, adding that changes in the way data was gathered could be a factor, as well as shifts in the heat stored by oceans.
And there are many other parts of it. Most importantly, there's a lot of chaotic weather - complicated patterns in the atmosphere and the oceans. Most kids know that the weather may change the local temperature by ten degrees in a few hours. So why it couldn't change the global mean temperature by a tenth of a degree in a decade? Their hidden assumption that the Earth is perfectly adjusted for its global mean temperature to be completely constant is childish. Why would it be doing that? It obviously doesn't do it. Why are they promoting this manifestly incorrect meme?
"We've not put our finger precisely on what has changed," Knight said. "(But) If you add all these things together ... there's nothing really there to challenge the idea that there's going to be large warming in the 21st century."

Then a miracle occurs... I think you should be more explicit in step two. ;-)

More precisely, how did he exactly get from the evidence that pretty much falsifies a hypothesis to the conclusion that there's "nothing to challenge the idea" - neither this piece of evidence nor any other piece of evidence? It's a true miracle. It's not trivial to logically get from "Probably no" to "Certainly surely positively yes Amen." ;-)
"The long-term change for the Arctic sea ice has been very consistent. It shows a decline over these (past) three decades especially in the summer. In the past 3-4 years Arctic sea ice has been below the average for the last 30 years."
That's great but the Arctic is not the globe. It's one percent of it or so. There are other places of the world where no "consistent" warming has occurred at all. The simplest example is the object on the other side from the Arctic, the Antarctica. Have you heard of that continent? It's not enough to find one place on Earth that's consistent with your hypothesis. Quite on the contrary: it's enough to find one place that's inconsistent with it to falsify it.
Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the IPCC, told Reuters that the IPCC stood by its 2007 findings that it is more than 90 percent certain that human activities are the main cause of global warming in the past 50 years.
Well, this railway engineer also got excited by the big breasts in his porn book - and he insists that the Himalayan glaciers will melt either in 2035 or 2036. ;-) Is it really supposed to matter what a corrupt railway engineer says about a topic in which he has clear personal interests to make the answer look in one way? Are you really that stupid to believe it, Mr Doyle and Wynn?

Three short paragraphs are dedicated to Richard Lindzen. They're at the end where most readers don't get.
"Natural variability is not magic, there is movement of energy around the climate system and we should be able to track it," said Trenberth.
You may track it but you won't be able to predict the flows because it's a chaotic system. The patterns are changing. What he says that should be possible is nothing else than extending the meteorological models - weather forecast - from a few weeks - which is what they can do today - to years. It won't be easy, to put it mildly.
Trenberth attributed the cold winter to an extraordinary weather pattern not seen since 1977 which had curbed prevailing westerly winds across the northern hemisphere, and said that the underlying cause was "one we don't have answers to."
Except that similar "extraordinary" patterns during various seasons and at different places of the Earth occur almost all the time, every year. They're what the whole atmospheric dynamics is all about. Claiming that the dynamics is about something completely different - and attributing every weather event to an "extraordinary" miracle - is a sign of a superstitious, irrational approach to the climate that denies the reality.

And that's one of the memos.

1 comment:

  1. It is obvious that journalists and politicos know nothing about the scientific method, or reality for that matter, and think that scientists are cute guys in white lab coats trying to push funny ideas on people, like the "formula for the perfect hamburger", just because they're all a bit cranky and need money for their nutty hypothesis.

    Neither ever needed to confront reality, as their "reality" is something you can negociate with and persuade.

    It' not just imbecility, it's the impossibility of conceiving something else than a social "reality". I think the Jesuits called this "invincible ignorance".