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Global Warming: You can't verify climate models with more suppositions

Over on the newsgroups, folk are discussing a rather sad article from ScienceDaily, called "Apparent Problem With Global Warming Climate Models Resolved".

Apparently the folk at ScienceDaily, as well as a large fraction of the general public, need some basic lessons in how real science, the science that increases our understanding and helps us make sense of the world, works. Here's a textbook example of how not to do it:

Yale University scientists reported that they may have resolved a controversial glitch in models of global warming: A key part of the atmosphere didn't seem to be warming as expected.

Computer models and basic principles predict atmospheric temperatures should rise slightly faster than, not lag, increases in surface temperatures. Also, the models predict the fastest warming should occur at the Tropics at an altitude between eight and 12 kilometers. However, temperature readings taken from weather balloons and satellites have, according to most analysts, shown little if any warming there compared to the surface.

By measuring changes in winds, rather than relying upon problematic temperature measurements, Robert J. Allen and Steven C. Sherwood of the Department of Geology and Geophysics at Yale estimated the atmospheric temperatures near 10 km in the Tropics rose about 0.65 degrees Celsius per decade since 1970—probably the fastest warming rate anywhere in Earth's atmosphere. The temperature increase is in line with predictions of global warming models.

“I think this puts to rest any lingering doubts that the atmosphere really has been warming up more or less as we expect, due mainly to the greenhouse effect of increasing gases like carbon dioxide,” Sherwood said.

Note that the thermometers (i.e. instruments designed to measure temperature) are said to be "problematic"—a euphemism for flat-out disagreeing with the AGW theory. So instead, they come up with yet another unverifiable model, this time claiming that wind changes are a better measure of temperature than a thermometer. Gimme a break! If you believe that, there's a nice harbour bridge in Sydney I wanna sell ya. So we have:

  • Thermometers disprove AGW, so:
  • hypothesise a connection between wind and temperature that shows different temperatures
  • (Note that this hypothesis cannot agree with experiment because the theory is designed to differ from the raw temperature readings—the thermometers)
  • on the basis on this, by its deliberate construction, false theory, claim you have corroboration of your AGW theory.

The problem, of course, is that this supposed "verification" is circular. One theory (wind tells you temperature), completely unverified, is somehow supposed to provide the evidence that removes "any lingering doubts" about another, also unverified, theory. Truly sad!

Real science works by connecting theory to observation. Two theories cannot corroborate each other in an evidence-free vacuum. Unfortunately this is a classic ploy of the AGW shysters. From now on, any time someone points out the demonstrable fact that the temperature measurements flatly contradict the AGW theory, they will be told "Ah, but that claim has been discredited." "Discredited" is a powerful word; most unwitting onlookers will be taken in by it without further ado. Bogus pseudoscience works hand-in-hand with dishonest psychological manipulation. That is what the great scientific edifice, won with the blood and courage of heroes of the enlightenment like Giordano Bruno, has degenerated into. Have we arrived at the threshold of the next dark age?

[Update] Here's another story from ScienceDaily with all the same mistakes: Changes In The Sun Are Not Causing Global Warming, New Study Shows. This time, it is the Sun's influence on cosmic rays that is "laid to rest" by a mere computer program. Here's what I know, as someone who has taught computer science for near thirty years: computer programs embody whatever knowledge, prejudices, and outright mistakes that their programmers put into them. Only if the assumptions are correct will the output be.

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Re: Global Warming: You can't verify climate models with ...

The next dark age is here unless scientists can be convinced to force the issue of following scientific practices and exposeing those that are not. If this does not happen then science will suffer because those that are useing science as a tool to further their own goals will dump science when the goals are met. It is easier to maintain control over an ignorant population than an enlightened one! History shows us that!
I spent from the early 80s until 2006 in digital communications so I am familiar with GIGO.

Re: Global Warming: You can't verify climate models with ...

I have been thinking about a new dark age for some time. There's a book - otherwise reasonably pedestrian - about economics called The Future of Capitalism by Lester Thurow. In the midst of lots of dry stuff, he suddenly blurts out:

"In the Dark Ages as now, there was no vision of how one made a better life. They knew that standards of living had been higher in the past, but they were too disorganised to get back to the past or to organise a march to the future. Today there is a similar lack of vision. Something is going wrong, but no one knows how to reverse it." (p.275)

That is from 1997. He also predicts low inflation from that time on. It seems there are a few others who, like you and me, are not taken in by the official patter. Our problem now is what to do to create more awareness.

Re: Global Warming: You can't verify climate models with ...

Teach people how to think! Each of us must find their place in the world and realize that each is an indivual part of a whole, We are not cookie cutter replicas but individuals with minds that have the ability to analyze and reason. To find solutions to problems and to seperate problems from normal events. I was not comfortable with te way I was raised and wanted to find a better way of life. So I studied life. That was in 1965 when I went out into the world on my own. I learned that I do not know the answers. I look at the situation and majke a decision some time right and sometimes wrong then I live with my decision and go on with life one step at a time into the future. Challenges are growth opportunities and learning experiences so we need to keep our eyes open and be aware of life around us.

Re: Global Warming: You can't verify climate models with ...

I think the whole AGW house of cards won't be long now in collapsing. The problem is that the after effect will probably be people will no longer trust science being unable to sort the wheat from the chaff. So much for who will be discredited. Heads will roll, but will it be the right heads? Just keep plugging away, Ron with articles like this. I don't know where we're going but we'll soon be there. Don't know much about the Dark Ages - who does, there are very few documents from that time

Re: Global Warming: You can't verify climate models with ...

Hi John, Mike, yes. It seems to me your comments work in synergy. I too am deeply concerned about the damage to science. (The global warming question isn't the only one where strange goings on go on, but it is the one that has hit the public awareness.) It would be nice if schools taught more thinking skills and less collective guilt tripping, but we have now reached the point where the adult population of teachers was itself "educated" (ha ha) in the new obscurantist, activist style. How do we restore basic understanding to the teachers themselves? Maybe a major issue backfiring is the only way to get the political will to do it. I hope not, because so many innocents will get hurt in the chaos, but we might have to brace ourselves for a climate disaster (cold, not heat) to get some deep introspection going on in the class that is so sure of itself. My fear is that the backlash will end up being more like the French revolution's reign of terror than a new enlightenment.

Re: Global Warming: You can't verify climate models with ...

It's not just the science of Climatology that's in trouble. For example, Cosmology, Solar Astronomy, and Particle Physics are all having to 'invent' weirder and weider hypotheses to try to hold together their standard models.

However, Climatology is in a much worse state than other sciences because of the time scales involved and the diffculties of dealng with such a large scale chaotic dynamic system. The dominance of politcs in this field is also a massive handicap to any real progress.

Climate changes unpredictably in non-linear ways at all timescales, and we do not have the tools we need to make accurate predictons.

Re: Global Warming: You can't verify climate models with ...

Hi Tenuc,

You might be interested in, or perhaps you already know about, a book called "Seeing Red; redshifts, cosmology and academic science" by veteran astronomer, Halton Arp. It presents a mass of evidence that the red shifts of galactic recession are not in fact velocity-related, but are intrinsic to the matter emitting the radiation. I haven't made up my mind for absolute sure about his claims, as I know about one piece of evidence that doesn't seem to fit his theory. I'll write a blog about it soon.

The reason I mention it now is that he also documents the suppression of contradictory (to the standard model) evidence by journals and academe. The problems with the science establishment (meaning how we do it, not the ideal of science itself) seem to be more or less universal. But as you say, in the case of climate, politics has amplified this malfunction into a really serious threat to humanity.

Re: Global Warming: You can't verify climate models with ...

I read this Ron House article above. House seems not to understand what he criticizes. He claims that the "connection between wind and temperature ... cannot agree with experiment because the theory is designed to differ from the raw temperature readings", when in fact the opposite is true: the connection between wind and temperature follows from physical law and has been endlessly verified. House could even verify it himself, with a little effort.

Re: Global Warming: You can't verify climate models with ...

1: You've misquoted me. The hypothesis about a connection between wind and temperature that shows different temperatures - NOT the connection between ... - is what is designed to differ from the raw readings.

2: The thermal wind equation might indeed be a basic law - but so is F=ma (and the latter is a whole lot simpler) but anyone who applies F=ma to a major complex natural system ignoring all manner of confounding factors is just being foolish. For example, if one applied it to a boulder rolling downhill and ignored friction, or to leaves falling and ignored the wind. So turning to the thermal wind equations, it is immediately obvious that the multilayered atmosphere of the real planet does not constitute a coherent mass of gas as assumed in the TWE. At all places and on all scales, it is cut through by uplifting thermals, downdrafts, storms, local heating, changes in water content, and heaps more. Others more cynical than I might even add that we don't know that, if this paper were to be pulled apart and checked as the hockey stick papers have, it would not fall apart in just the same manner.

3: It still remains to be explained why a simple device like a thermometer gives readings from day-to-day that are consistently wrong in just such a manner as to simulate a non-heating atmosphere of the sort that would result if the climate models had incorrect forcings. Why should a thermometer that reads right in 2000 read under by, say, 1C in 2009? What is the answer to that? Just saying that the thermometers were not "designed" to measure global warming simply doesn't cut it. One might argue that they haven't been designed to measure T accurately enough, but this paper is in effect alleging that all the thermometers on all the balloons and satellites are giving consistently increasingly incorrect measurements from year to year. That is an astounding assertion, which would require a quite remarkable explanation if it were true. You can't make such outlandish and bizarre claims without evidence and expect to be taken seriously.