Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Computer modeling and weather

I wrote once before on the subject of 'global warming', just touching on it. Last night & today is a fine demonstration as to why so much of the crisis-mongering means nothing.

There was a snow advisory for the area. We were supposed to get 1" to 3" here; south & west, up to 6". Every meteorologist in the area, and the National Weather Service, was warning of this. What did we get? Some wet flakes and some rain. Of the predicted 6", some areas of southwest & east central OK had some icy spots on bridges. That was it.

This mess was less than 24 hours into the future, and they blew it bigtime. And it's not the first time, and won't be the last. Snow, thunderstorms, tornados... with multiple Doppler radars scanning a mesocyclone, they can say there might be a tornado, and they're often wrong. And sometimes they still don't spot one until someone reports it on the ground.

Correction: it's 'State of Fear'. What, you want perfection?

When the models cannot reliably predict what's going to happen within 24-48 hours, why in the hell do people believe it when someone says "My computer models predict the earths temperature will rise X degrees in the next century", or whatever the time frame is they're using? But a lot of people do. And they're scared to death by it; so they demand Changes Be Made, and Now! Don't tell me what it will cost in how many ways, don't tell me there's nothing to replace what I want to get rid of, we have to DO SOMETHING!!!

I just finished reading 'Climate of Fear', Michael Crichton's newest book. Not a bad story. In some ways the most interesting things were the charts included. Real charts, showing the results of studies of temperatures, of sea levels, etc. Guess what they indicate? That the crisis-mongers are full of crap.

Oh, he also references exactly where the data came from. Including Bjorn Lomborg, the Danish researcher whose former colleagues at Greenpeace want to hang. You see, he wrote a book pointing out just how full of crap all the predictions of crisis are, and they can't stand it. Pretty good book. No, I didn't understand everything in it, I still got the gist of it.

If someone used data like most of the modeling studies to sell their services to predict the stock market, they'd be in jail for fraud. But since they're 'only' predicting the weather a century away and scaring hell out of people, they get away with it.

At this point I've been up for 21 hours, with about 6 hours sleep before that, and I'm beat. But I wanted to get this down now. No particular reason, just needed to do it. Now goodnight, all, I'm for a shower and bed.

(Sondra K, where are you when I need you? Heh, heh, heh.....)


Anonymous said...

Amen, brother..

I read Crichton's book, too. It was State of Fear. I guess 21 hours with no sleep will make you loopy like that.

Anyway, my dad has an interesting little hypothesis that suggests that "global warming" (if it really exists and I have my serious doubts, like you said, we can't even predict the weather a day out) may actually be saving our lives. It's widely accepted that we are in an interglacial period right now and if we are artificially keeping the temp of the earth up, we are staving off another ice age surge. And an ice age would be exponentially more devastating to our species than warmer summers in Wisconsin. Imagine sheets of ice covering the earth as far south as Kansas City, towering up to a mile or more in height. I'd rather have a sunburn. Of course, just an idea he came up with while painting the bathroom the other day.

dog and pony show guy

Anonymous said...

I hope you understand the difference between weather prediction (what will happen in a specific area at a specific time) and climate modeling (concerned with overall averages for broad areas over relatively long timespans).

In one (weather) a front shifting a bit north can make a big difference, but in climate you only need the probability that a front will be somewhere.

I guess the humorous way to put it would be that it is easy to predict if will snow tomorrow in the US. It's quite a bit harder to predict if it will snow on you. (I'm pretty sure it won't snow on me, but that's climate - I'm at the beach in California.)

Anway, if you made it this far, a good scientific counterpoint to Cricthon can be found here. It looks to mke like he cuts some corners on his arguemnts - at the very least.

Firehand said...

Oh, yeah, there's a difference between prediction and modeling.

My problem comes in when people set up a model on such a huge, complex and chaotic system as weather, and claims it will tell what's going to happen in ten, or fifty, or a hundred years. I have great respect for the scientific method; I have considerably less respect for those who 'use' it in ways it should not be, and try to use their conclusions to beat down those who disagree.

Anonymous said...

Well, the thing about the models is that they are many of them, done over 30 years now. Scientists (in many countries and with many agendas) can compare them and refine them.

It seems just too convenient when the hardliners, those who want to say there is no global warming period, say that they believe in no models period.

It doesn't sound like an open mind.

Firehand said...

My problems with the modeling are two. First, precisely because it is such a big, chaotic system, there are huge unknowns, and yet we're told "you can trust this, this is what Will Happen", which is BS.

Second, I read some articles a while back pointing out that the models being pushed hardest by some people had entirely disregarded the evidence of the natural warming/cooling cycle; and when it was factored it, it pretty much negated their predictions. And it really pissed them off that this was brought in.

Anonymous said...

Chaos is real, but it operates on a certain level. You would be more interested in chaos, for instance, if you were looking at weather patterns. Climate is about averages.

If you consider the famous Lorenz butterfly graph, it clearly cycles around an average:

Finally, I think you exagerate the emotional component of modeling ;-).

To cut to the chase, I don't think that climate meetings in Argentina and in England (not exactly longtime friends) would meet the same conclusions if there was not science to support it.



... I don't know, do really want American trout to die?

Firehand said...

I wasn't referring to an emotional component in modeling, but in the actions of the enviroweenies. Like the ones who are still screaming 'traitor', etc., at Lomborg for daring to disagree with them.

Second, the British and Argentine governments in whole may not be the best of friends, but the people playing 'global warming, the sky is falling' generally are.

Again, I point out that in the 70's it was global cooling that was going to kill us all; now it's global warming, and very often based on the same data. Doesn't give me great confidence in this mess.

Anonymous said...

Where's the beef? Your argument seems to just that you don't trust people - environmentalists in particular. I gotta tell you, I don't believe them all the time. They (the environmentalists) have pushed some strange ones. Unfortunately they seem to have tripped on a good one here, and of course if you make a point to never believe them, then you sill miss on anything real.

Another way to put it would be sure, they cried wolf. Unforutnately that does not prove there are no wolves.

Firehand said...

Some people I don't trust, particularly those who have made a career and/or religeon of of telling us the sky is falling.

As far as 'environmentalists', that word has become somewhat vague. Anyone from a conservationist to a nut-case level preservationist gets lumped under that term anymore, and some of the preservationist types are indeed flat nuts.

The wolves are indeed out there in some ways. Problem isn't simply that some have yelled "Wolf!" too much; it's that they actually believe every one of the screams. Makes it hard to take them seriously on much.

Anonymous said...

Guess who I don't trust?

That would be head-in-the-sand types, who find some oily reason to reject anything that might worry them.

The problem really is that this head-sticking might be growing. Consider this bit from a reacent Neal Stephenson interview:

"For much of the 20th century it was about science and technology. The heyday was the Second World War, when we had not just the Manhattan Project but also the Radiation Lab at MIT and a large cryptology industry all cooking along at the same time. The war led into the nuclear arms race and the space race, which led in turn to the revolution in electronics, computers, the Internet, etc. If the emblematic figures of earlier eras were the pioneer with his Kentucky rifle, or the Gilded Age plutocrat, then for the era from, say, 1940 to 2000 it was the engineer, the geek, the scientist. It’s no coincidence that this era is also when science fiction has flourished, and in which the whole idea of the Future became current. After all, if you’re living in a technocratic society, it seems perfectly reasonable to try to predict the future by extrapolating trends in science and engineering.

It is quite obvious to me that the U.S. is turning away from all of this. It has been the case for quite a while that the cultural left distrusted geeks and their works; the depiction of technical sorts in popular culture has been overwhelmingly negative for at least a generation now. More recently, the cultural right has apparently decided that it doesn’t care for some of what scientists have to say. So the technical class is caught in a pincer between these two wings of the so-called culture war. Of course the broad mass of people don’t belong to one wing or the other. But science is all about diligence, hard sustained work over long stretches of time, sweating the details, and abstract thinking, none of which is really being fostered by mainstream culture."

I don't know if you are doing it on purpose, but you are part of that. You are part of the anti-science.

Good day to you sir!