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« Inspirational Betts - Josh 289 | Main | More site issues »
Saturday
Aug302014

Poker Betts - Josh 288

Richard Betts quotes Dr Wallace Broecker, "The climate system is an angry beast and we are poking it with sticks." Read here.

As has been observed, it looks like it is not a very big stick and/or the climate is in good humour.


Cartoons by Josh

 

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Reader Comments (59)

Nice one Josh

Glad to see climate represented by clouds - one of my many wonderful achievements

Aug 30, 2014 at 4:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterH2O: the miracle molecule

Brilliant Josh, keep them coming. He's obviously lost control of the climate system.

Aug 30, 2014 at 4:39 PM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Perturbations seemed the right word to me.

Aug 30, 2014 at 4:46 PM | Registered Commenterjferguson

Wasn't there supposed to be a big knob ? that controlled the climate

Aug 30, 2014 at 4:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterEternalOptimist

River Styx for the IPCC.

Aug 30, 2014 at 4:48 PM | Unregistered Commenterturnedoutnice

Your stick obviously wasn't big enough, Josh. :)

Aug 30, 2014 at 5:15 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

And yet, it has been ten degrees celcius colder today than his lot told me to expect as recently as thursday. They failed to accurately predict a day like the last twenty days. Weather forecasting is difficult. Why would I trust anyone who can't do it very well to do better at global or regional climate.


(Still asking for ANY shifted boundaries on the Koeppen=Geiger climate map not due to land use changes)

Aug 30, 2014 at 5:22 PM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

Love it.

Aug 30, 2014 at 5:29 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Climate change causes wetter weather.

Thanks Josh, that cheered me up.

Aug 30, 2014 at 5:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

I guess drawing a lightning bolt would have been a step too far.

Aug 30, 2014 at 6:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterPiperPaul

Being angry towards clouds is perfectly understandable for anyone who wishes us to take climate models as anything other than an expensive joke. Because the models don't really 'do' clouds at all. Mind you they don't really 'do' carbon dioxide either, but let us not be diverted.

Pierre Gosselin has a lively post up which begins:

Media scientist Dr. Sebastian Vehlken works on the theory and history of computer simulation, and studies crowd research and super-computing. In the radio show “Voices of the Sciences” he made very critical statements on computer models’ capability to make prognoses.

and ends with:

'In short, the models, especially the climate models, may be good tools but for making prognoses they are not worth anything, and the projections are fraught with so much uncertainty that they absolutely should not be used as a basis for making policy decisions.'

He also adds a flashback to an entertaining talk by the mathematician and physicist, Professor Christopher Essex. If you enjoyed a chuckle over Josh's latest gem, you might like to move on to some more c/o Essex on climate models: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hvhipLNeda4

Aug 30, 2014 at 6:05 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

PiperPaul: Far too far. Josh is surely depicting a mildly amused climate, not an angry one :)

John: A great presentation by Chris Essex. On WUWT in May Robert G Brown watched it for the first time and found a kindred spirit. Worth searching for Essex in the comments there.

Aug 30, 2014 at 6:06 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Josh you're slipping, the stick should be a hockey stick

Aug 30, 2014 at 6:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Singleton

That would be poking the climate with an angry stick.

Aug 30, 2014 at 7:17 PM | Registered Commentershub

EternalOptimist

Wasn't there supposed to be a big knob ? that controlled the climate

Yep...the Gore Knob! But the spindle's come off!

Aug 30, 2014 at 7:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Passfield

Richar, could point to any particular interestiing comments by Essex in the post you cited - can't seem to find one, though it's a very long comment thread! Thanks.

Aug 30, 2014 at 7:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterLewis Deane

That's a good'un Josh. I actually chuckled.

Aug 30, 2014 at 7:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

Changed my mind, Josh. It's bloody brilliant.

Aug 30, 2014 at 7:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

Where's his bucket of ice.

Aug 30, 2014 at 9:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamspid

Love it, gave me a real chuckle. Thanks Josh.

Aug 30, 2014 at 9:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad

Very good Josh, I might even use it in a talk - with two different versions of the ending, your one and another one where it doesn't end quite so amusingly….. which is kind of the point here. We don't know what the ending will be.

I guess you and the Bish don't agree with Judy Curry's 'uncertainty monster' - you're confident that we can predict the future, and you're sure it's going to be just fine….

Thanks for making me laugh though.

Cheers

Richard

Aug 30, 2014 at 11:20 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Betts

Richard

It beggars belief that you accuse the Bish and Josh of believing they can predict the future. Surely the whole point is that they (we) are quite certain they cant, but most importantly that you can't either.

Can you point to any instance at all of regulars here asserting that we have any certainty about the future climate? Such assertions are, in my experience, exclusively the province of those on the "other side" of the debate - and are invariably justified with reference to the models you now claim no-one takes seriously.

I think projection is the term for this.

Aug 31, 2014 at 12:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Wilson

We do know what is going to happen: There will be another ice age.

Aug 31, 2014 at 12:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterJimmy Haigh

But Richard, isn't the amount of rain falling in heavy precipitation events likely to increase in most regions?

http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/science/future.html#Precipitation

Aug 31, 2014 at 1:21 AM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

Ah no - maybe this is where they are going wrong:

"Scientists use computer models of the climate system to better understand these issues and project future climate changes."

http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/science/future.html

Aug 31, 2014 at 1:25 AM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

What a revealing quote. All the ridiiculous computer models and tree ring/ice core studies are just a psuedo-scientific veneer covering the core belief of environmentalism - that the gods are angry with us and must be placated.

Aug 31, 2014 at 2:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterBloke in Central Illinois

"I guess you and the Bish don't agree with Judy Curry's 'uncertainty monster' - you're confident that we can predict the future, and you're sure it's going to be just fine…." Richard Betts.

The cartoon merely reflects the climate, which seems to be mocking climate science. Few sceptics claim that everything or indeed anything will be fine. We just say 'nobody knows'. You see that as a reason to act now with what we've got. Most of us see it as a reason to delay action until either we're sure or we have solutions that do more than shave tiny amounts off the CO2 total at great cost. Acting prematurely has consequences, not least an erosion of publict trust and enthusiasm.

Aug 31, 2014 at 8:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Richard,

So let's try crafting a responsible message, which is consistent with everything we know, but doesn't pretend that we know more than we actually do, and which mentions the more worrying possibilities without falsely treating them as predictions.


Burning fossil fuels produces CO2, which is added to the atmosphere. Some of this is absorbed by processes we don't entirely understand, but about half of it remains in the atmosphere. Thus if we keep burning fossil fuels at the current rate the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere will rise. Some people think that the absorption processes may be overwhelmed in future, in which case the CO2 level will rise even faster.

Adding CO2 to the atmosphere will increase the naturally occurring greenhouse effect, and so warm the planet. We are confident that the planet will get warmer, but we don't really know how much. Effects called feedbacks mean that the effect will almost certainly be different from the amount indicated by simple calculations, but we don't know how much change this will make. Most scientists think it will increase the effect of CO2, but we don't know how much, and a few scientists think it might even decrease the effect.

There's another complication, which is that the warming which occurs at the surface of the oceans can be transferred into the deep oceans by natural ocean currents. The oceans can hold a vast amount of heat, and so this could delay the effects of warming for a long time. It also means that natural variations in ocean currents (we know that these occur and we understand broadly why they happen, but as yet we don't understand them well enough to make predictions about them) can lead to variations in the surface temperature.

We can see the effects of both CO2 caused warming and ocean fluctuations in the measured temperature record. Unfortunately this record is quite short, making it hard to disentangle the two effects. Even worse, we only started measuring the deep ocean quite recently, and know very little about it. This makes it very hard to estimate how much warming will occur using historical records.

An alternative approach is to try to work out how much warming might occur from first principles. We try to do this with our big computer models called GCMs. Unfortunately the problem is very difficult, and while we think we might be getting close to cracking it we're not there yet. Our best guess is that the warming will be larger than simple calculations suggest, but frankly that's just a best guess.


Can we agree on something like that?

Aug 31, 2014 at 10:41 AM | Registered CommenterJonathan Jones

What I like about Josh's cartoons are that they are so essentially good natured. The green zealots so often seem eaten up with real hatred, shouty contempt for anyone who wanders a hair's breadth from the path of righteousness, and a view of humanity as a cancer on the planet; it is good to laugh with someone so clearly civilised.

Aug 31, 2014 at 11:27 AM | Unregistered Commentermike fowle

Wasn't there supposed to be a big knob ? that controlled the climate

Aug 30, 2014 at 4:48 PM | EternalOptimist
==============================================

That's no way to speak about Al Gore

Aug 31, 2014 at 11:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Poynton

Mr. Betts,

It's reassuring that you note how poor the GCMs. Sad, however, that you don't recognise that energy policy on the macro and micro level is based on the so-called accuracy of these models, and that this in turn hurts the poor in the developed world, and worst, horribly damages the Third World, which without access to cheap energy - ille est, fossil fuels, - is condemned to eternal poverty and hunger.

Aug 31, 2014 at 11:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Poynton

Jeremy Poynton

well said, sir.

no surprise that the 'scientists' are starting to distance themselves from the policymakers as the fan prepares to be bespattered

the harm that has been done is truly alarming!

Aug 31, 2014 at 1:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterH2O: the miracle molecule

Jonathan Jones - just to give any policy makers some context for your proposed text:

Do you have any numbers for your "Most scientists" and your "few scientists"?

Is it 97 to 3 for example? Do you have any methodology that leads you to choose such numbers?

Do any people think that CO2 absorption processes may in fact increase in the future?

What is your preferred reference for the delayed heating effect you claim for the oceans and what is the order of magnitude of "a long time"?

How long is a "quite short" temperature record?

How recently is the "quite recently" that we started measuring the deep ocean?

How close in years do you think you are to cracking the first principles calculations?

Do you have anything to support that your proposed "best guess" is better than any other guesses?

Aug 31, 2014 at 3:35 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

Jonathan Jones:

"We try to do this with our big computer models called GCMs. Unfortunately the problem is very difficult, and while we think we might be getting close to cracking it we're not there yet."

That is optimistic to put things mildly. Apart from the fact that we don't understand many parts of the climate system particularily well, just to upgrade the GCMs to a resolution high enough to realistically model e. g. hurricanes, clouds or convection cells requires an increase in computer capacity of about 10^8 to 10^12 which is not going to happen anytime soon.

"It also means that natural variations in ocean currents (we know that these occur and we understand broadly why they happen, but as yet we don't understand them well enough to make predictions about them)"

That is also rather optimistic. We know that variations occur, but not really why. It might be argued that we know very broadly why ENSO happens, but not even that is true for other large scale quasi periodic changes in other ocean basins. Please note that not even ninos/ninas can be predicted even a few months in advance, as has been demonstrated recently.
And as for the thermohaline circulation, which is all-important for vertical heat transfer in the oceans, well, we don't even know where the deep water returns to the surface.

Aug 31, 2014 at 10:33 PM | Unregistered Commentertty

Jonathon,
That really is very good. Is it your handiwork - hoping that there was at least one other person with the insiught and grasp to write it?

Aug 31, 2014 at 10:52 PM | Registered Commenterjferguson

That Percy Shelley would have 'em all into a cocked hat:

I am the daughter of Earth and Water,
And the nursling of the Sky;
I pass through the pores of the ocean and shores;
I change, but I cannot die.
For after the rain when with never a stain
The pavilion of Heaven is bare,
And the winds and sunbeams with their convex gleams
Build up the blue dome of air,
I silently laugh at my own cenotaph,
And out of the caverns of rain,
Like a child from the womb, like a ghost from the tomb,
I arise and unbuild it again.

(with h/t to Gavin Pretor-Pinney)

Aug 31, 2014 at 11:06 PM | Unregistered Commenterdc

Jonathan Jones:

"We try to do this with our big computer models called GCMs. Unfortunately the problem is very difficult, and while we think we might be getting close to cracking it we're not there yet."

Some interesting work and commentary from May 2011 on model E complexity and it's manifestation:

http://climateaudit.org/2011/05/15/willis-on-giss-model-e/

How have things changed in the past three years or so?

Sep 1, 2014 at 12:00 AM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

Our best guess is that the warming will be larger than simple calculations suggest, but frankly that's just a best guess.

Can we agree on something like that?
Aug 31, 2014 at 10:41 AM | Registered CommenterJonathan Jones

I couldn't, where is the support for 'larger than simple calculations suggest' as I have seen none, a 17 year pause would suggest the opposite 'smaller than simple calculations suggest'

Sep 1, 2014 at 8:47 AM | Registered CommenterBreath of Fresh Air

Our best guess is that the warming will be larger than simple calculations suggest, but frankly that's just a best guess.
Your best guess, perhaps. My own is that it will cool, soon, possibly quite dramatically, though not too drastically – however, that will not stop the scaremongers screaming about the on-coming ice age. It will warm again (hopefully, without the replay of today’s farce), and the next century will be welcomed with the global average temperatures less than 1°C different from the present average.

There is the possibility that I will be wrong, of course, and you can pick me up on that, later.

Sep 1, 2014 at 9:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterRadical Rodent

We are not even sure just how much CO2 Man puts into the atmosphere.
One thing we can be sure of it certainly doesn't drive global temperature in any significant way.
I found this paper, most interesting:

Humluma, Stordahlc, & Solheimd (2013) Global and Planetary Change (100), pp 51–69- shows that atmospheric CO2 changes LAG, rather than LEAD global temperature (by about 10-12 months).

Which leads me to question whether Climate Psientists have even heard of "cause and effect"?

Sep 1, 2014 at 9:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

For the avoidance of doubt, I wrote the words in my post of Aug 31, 2014 at 10:41 AM, but they do not express my own opinions. Rather they are a suggestion to Richard Betts as to a possible form of words by which he might express his own opinions in clear and simple terms. And as he has made no reply they remain simply my suggestion.

Personally I don't disagree with most of the first four paragraphs, though I think paragraphs 2 and 4 are a bit overconfident. I do disagree with paragraph 5, which I think is definitely overconfident.

Sep 1, 2014 at 11:35 AM | Registered CommenterJonathan Jones

Hi Jonathan

Just catching up (I was out yesterday).

Thanks for your proposed text, that all looks pretty good to me, except I'd probably say 'best estimate' rather than 'best guess' at the end.

I'm a bit confused that you initially said "Can we agree on something like that?" but are now saying you don't actually entirely agree with it yourself. I'd be interested to see your own personal version.

Cheers

Richard

Sep 1, 2014 at 12:30 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Betts

Must say with the new comments from JJ and RB above, I'm confused as to what JJ's proposed text is intended to do?

The piece starts being framed as "crafting a responsible message" which, given the starting context of GCMs informing public policy, I took to mean a message for a target audience of policy makers. Yet it has no references or evidence to back up its position and now it seems JJ was taking on the task of expressing Richard Betts' opinions on his behalf!

My conclusion is that it is just meaningless, cause no offence, on-message wordsmithing; about as useful to policy makers as "The climate system is an angry beast and we are poking it with sticks."

Sep 1, 2014 at 3:09 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

As I said, my aim was to write a straightforward "plain language" version of Richard's position, which would avoid both excessively technical language and unhelpful metaphors such as "poking angry beasts with sticks". Slightly surprisingly he seems broadly happy with my proposed text.

Reasonably enough Richard then asks for my position, and it's not that different from his, beyond a few caveats, except in the last paragraph where I think he's hopelessly over optimistic:


Burning fossil fuels produces CO2, which is added to the atmosphere. Some of this is absorbed by processes we don't entirely understand, but it seems that about half of it remains in the atmosphere. Thus if we keep burning fossil fuels at the current rate the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere will almost certainly rise. Some people think that the absorption processes may be overwhelmed in future, in which case the CO2 level will rise even faster, but as yet there's no evidence of this happening.

Adding CO2 to the atmosphere will increase the naturally occurring greenhouse effect, and so warm the planet. We are confident that the planet will get warmer, but we don't know how much. Effects called feedbacks mean that the effect will almost certainly be different from the amount indicated by simple calculations, but we don't know how much change this will make. Most climate scientists think it will increase the effect of CO2, but they don't know by how much, and a few climate scientists think it might even decrease the effect.

There's another complication, which is that the warming which occurs at the surface of the oceans can be transferred around the globe and into the deep oceans by natural ocean currents. The oceans can hold a vast amount of heat, and so this could delay the effects of warming for a long time. It also means that natural variations in ocean currents (we know that these occur but we don't yet understand them well enough to make predictions about them) can lead to variations in the surface temperature.

Climate scientists think they can see the effects of both CO2 caused warming and ocean fluctuations in the measured temperature record. Unfortunately this record is short, and mostly low quality, making it hard to disentangle the two effects, but as a very rough guess it looks like natural variability could easily explain about half of the warming in the late 20th century. Even worse, we only started measuring the deep ocean quite recently, and know very little about it. This makes it very hard to estimate how much warming will occur using these historical records, but what evidence there is currently favours relatively modest numbers. Actually we can't even completely rule out the possibility that everything we have seen so far is natural variability, but we have good theoretical grounds to expect at least some CO2 caused warming over the last 70 years, so that seems a little unlikely.

An alternative approach is to try to work out how much warming might occur from first principles. Climate scientists try to do this with their big computer models called GCMs. Unfortunately the problem is very difficult, and while they think they might be getting close to cracking it they are actually nowhere near there yet, and improvements in the near future are not at all likely. Their best guess is that the warming will be larger than simple calculations suggest, but frankly that's nothing more than a guess. The fact that current models are much better at hindcasting ("predicting" the past) than they are at forecasting (actually predicting the future) is a strong indicator that they have been "tuned" to the past but actually have almost no predictive power.


It's pretty much a standard lukewarmer's position, and it seems that Richard agrees with most of it.

Sep 1, 2014 at 4:43 PM | Registered CommenterJonathan Jones

Jonathan

I'm not sure about this bit

Climate scientists think they can see the effects of both CO2 caused warming and ocean fluctuations in the measured temperature record.

It seems to me to entangle two questions.
1. Is the global temperature doing something different from normal?
2. Is the global temperature doing something different to what climate models suggest it should, that something being explainable by the action of GHGs?

I think public understanding needs clear answers to both of these questions.

(David Shukman told me you shouldn't refer to "models" but instead to "simulations". More people will understand you that way apparently).

Sep 1, 2014 at 6:02 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Jonathan Jones

Thank you for this and congratulations on progress so far.

It would be good to see Richard's own version of this statement.

Sep 1, 2014 at 6:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterRonaldo

Possibly the best statements of the two positions I've ever seen, both written by the same man!

Sep 1, 2014 at 7:30 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Andrew,

My text is quite carefully phrased, and the bit you chose

Climate scientists think they can see the effects of both CO2 caused warming and ocean fluctuations in the measured temperature record.

is an attempt to summarise what I think climate scientists believe, not what I believe. Your quarrel, if any, should be with

Unfortunately this record is short, and mostly low quality, making it hard to disentangle the two effects, but as a very rough guess it looks like natural variability could easily explain about half of the warming in the late 20th century. Even worse, we only started measuring the deep ocean quite recently, and know very little about it. This makes it very hard to estimate how much warming will occur using these historical records, but what evidence there is currently favours relatively modest numbers. Actually we can't even completely rule out the possibility that everything we have seen so far is natural variability, but we have good theoretical grounds to expect at least some CO2 caused warming over the last 70 years, so that seems a little unlikely.

which is in my own voice (though there is non-trivial overlap with my proposed summary of Richard's position.

Sep 1, 2014 at 7:45 PM | Registered CommenterJonathan Jones

Jonathan Jones

not wishing to belittle your efforts, I nevertheless think Richard Betts summed it up very succinctly on an earlier thread when he said

Everyone** agrees that we can't predict the long-term response of the climate to ongoing CO2 rise with great accuracy. It could be large, it could be small. We don't know.

Sep 1, 2014 at 8:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterH2O: the miracle molecule

JJ - better, but I still think you need to put numbers in instead of adjectives for times and be more more specific about which temperature records you are referrring to - for example the MET office claim the CET record dates back to 1659. I'd also like some references to back up your claims about oceans sequestering heat and the associated timescales.

H20 - replace "great" with "any" and RB might have been closer. It would also fit better with his next two sentences.

Sep 2, 2014 at 12:09 AM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

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