Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Climate Science--More Interesting, and Diverse, Than You Thought

Too often, climate modeling approximates the scientific accuracy of a voodoo priestess throwing "dem bones." When mathematical models are based upon poor proxy data, and sloppy, incomplete models, the famous rule of "GIGO" takes center stage.

Fortunately, two things are occurring to improve the validity of the infant science of climatology. First, better satellite observations are able to take account of the aerosol and water vapour effect, and the heat island effect of urban centers. Second, more climate scientists are slowly coming out of the woodwork to contest the erroneous image of consensus in approaches and axioms in climate science.

The more exhaust we spew, the more temperatures will go up. But when you get into the details, as Chylek is quick to tell you, you find that climate science is not a monolith:

Could changes in the sun be responsible for some of the warming?

While scientists obsess over greenhouse gases, are they missing other things that could be having equally large effects on the climate?

Are the thermometer records that show warming as good as scientists think they are?

Contrary to the common perception of textbooks filled with fixedknowledge, real science is a tangled process fraught with uncertainties, and such debates are common in any field.

“Science,” said Texas A&M climate scientist Andrew Dessler, “is this turbulent interface between what we know and what we don’t know.”

But if all science is turbulent, then climate science, because of its political dimensions, is all the more so.

Chylek placed that turbulence center stage last week, inviting more than a hundred scientists from around the world to Santa Fe for the 2nd International Conference on Global Warming, to discuss what scientists know and don’t know about our changing climate.

.... The range of views held by working climate scientists does not show up in the political version of the debate, according to Roger Pielke Jr., a University of Colorado political scientist who studies the politics of climate science.

The science becomes caricatured, according to Pielke, dichotomized into “skeptics versus alarmists … even though it does not do justice
to the complexities of the science debate.”

....Pielke Sr. thinks greenhouse gases are not the whole story. Massive human land-use changes? wholesale shifts from forest to agriculture, for example? are also important but are being given short shrift because of the emphasis on greenhouse gases.

Pielke Sr. also thinks global temperature data, the backbone of global warming claims, are fraught with uncertainties. And he is skeptical of the computer climate simulations used to forecast future climate change.

All of those legitimate scientific questions are lost in the simplified black-and-white version of climate science that shows up in
public discourse, Pielke Sr. believes.
More at source.

Up until now, climate science has lacked the data to adequately take into account aerosols, water vapour in the atmosphere, and the urban heat island effect--not to mention land use changes and solar variation. Better earth monitoring satellite and solar astronomic data over the next ten years should improve that facility.

The IPCC also misrepresents what a "doubling" of CO2 would mean in climate terms, given the logarithmic nature of the thermal response involved. Showing a layperson curves for exponential and logarithmic curves and explaining the difference would be more honest than the approach the IPCC has taken up until now.

Global warming is far more complex than the media and the political hucksters portray it. It is in the interest of the media to portray climate change as a human caused catastrophe. The story sells better if you can portray a story as devastating, and have someone real to blame. Concocting a faux consensus only helps in convincing the reader that he knows more about the topic than he actually does.

It is a good thing for climatology to grow out of its infancy and adopt better tools.


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