Monday, March 30, 2009

Illustrious Climate Models

Models are illustrations. They illustrate our understanding of the phenomenon being modeled. The benefit of the model is that it allows extrapolation and exploration, i.e playing "what if?" games by modifying the parameters of the model. Randomness can be applied to represent observed ranges of inputs. Complex behavior can be seen which appears to approximate the real world allowing you to see dynamic outputs which tend to reinforce confidence in the model. Nevertheless, it is still only a model, and will only show you a reflection of what you already understand.

Contemporary climate models are woefully incomplete. They contain invalid and unproven assumptions, and in some cases even mistaken assumptions. They fail to account for vital macroscopic processes such as vertical wind profiles and cloud formation. If any assumption is incorrect, or any sufficiently significant process overlooked, then the models are incorrect.

Incorrect models cannot be validated, but can be calibrated to match a preexisting set of data. The problem with most climate models used to support Global Warming, is that the validation was never done. Calibration must be done before validation, and if calibration is even necessary it's because you are still empirically deriving a parameter(s) which wasn't adequately defined up front. You probably can't even tell which parameter was in error. Confidence is therefore unknown.

What this means is the worlds best climate models, no matter how much time they take to run, or how much confidence they claim, are only toys. The more they are run, the more they are tweaked to bring them in line with current conditions. It's a process of continuous calibration. This tweaking only serves to illustrate that the model was wrong and incomplete to begin with.

We know the models are incomplete from the get go, and we even know some of the reasons why. The logical thing to do is to put our resources toward research which can fill in the gaps, and increase our confidence in the models. One of the projects that could fill a giant gap in our understanding of the atmosphere is the Cloud project at CERN.

The Cloud project (Cosmics Leaving OUtdoor Droplets) is testing the hypothesis that a range of cosmic rays influence cloud formation. Cosmic rays originating in outer space interact in our atmosphere as condensation nuclei. This experiment will mark the first time a partical accelerator has been used for atmospheric research.

What you may notice when visiting the Cloud project page linked above, is that the proposal is now 10 years old. Unfortunately some early press reports quoted the lead researcher, Jasper Kirby, as saying cosmic rays "will probably be able to account for somewhere between a half and the whole of the increase in the Earth's temperature that we have seen in the last century."
This statement resulted in the loss of funding for the Cloud project, until a much maligned and humbled Jasper Kirby started to downplay the significance of the project.

Science is at the mercy of politics. The first data from the Cloud experiment should be available in 2010. So while we are blind, and making profound decisions based on the output of incomplete and erroneous models, there may come a day when we can see. Hindsight is always 20/20, but there are many who would rather keep us in the dark.

I will look forward to the results of this and many other projects which can help us to more fully understand the interactions of our atmosphere and all that influences it internally and externally.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

NYTimes: The Civil Heretic

Global Warming is the one great example we have that causes people to hold strong opinions purely based on the significance of the outcome were it true. It admittedly hasn't been proven, but something must be done now anyway. Isn't a consensus enough? At least that is the mantra.

I would ask in turn, why hold an opinion of something you cannot understand? How do you know whether or not it is occurring? If it is totally beyond your comprehension to prove or disprove it, then why panic? If you are only going off of blind trust, why? Is authoritarianism in science actually science?

I have many reasons to believe anthropogenic global warming isn't real. I'm sure I will get to each of them in the coming months.

I believe more in principals than personalities, but Freeman Dyson is a fine example of a man driven by principal. One who evaluates each modicum of evidence and seeks to understand the issues. I wouldn't usually provide a link to the New York Times, but this article about Freeman Dyson deserves to be read.

The Civil Heretic

IT WAS FOUR YEARS AGO that Dyson began publicly stating his doubts about climate change. Speaking at the Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future at Boston University, Dyson announced that “all the fuss about global warming is grossly exaggerated.” Since then he has only heated up his misgivings, declaring in a 2007 interview with that “the fact that the climate is getting warmer doesn’t scare me at all” and writing in an essay for The New York Review of Books, the left-leaning publication that is to gravitas what the Beagle was to Darwin, that climate change has become an “obsession” — the primary article of faith for “a worldwide secular religion” known as environmentalism. Among those he considers true believers, Dyson has been particularly dismissive of Al Gore, whom Dyson calls climate change’s “chief propagandist,” and James Hansen, the head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York and an adviser to Gore’s film, “An Inconvenient Truth.” Dyson accuses them of relying too heavily on computer-generated climate models that foresee a Grand Guignol of imminent world devastation as icecaps melt, oceans rise and storms and plagues sweep the earth, and he blames the pair’s “lousy science” for “distracting public attention” from “more serious and more immediate dangers to the planet.”

“The climate-studies people who work with models always tend to overestimate their models,” Dyson was saying. “They come to believe models are real and forget they are only models.”

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

It's A Crisis Of Integrity

"Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys."
- P.J. O'Rourke, Civil Libertarian

What we are experiencing in the U.S. today, to use the popular lexicon is a "Crisis of Confidence". Confidence in what? you might ask. In the financial sector, and in Government. What is it that we can have confidence in? Confidence is just a measure of integrity, which means we are actually experiencing a crisis of integrity. Isn't that really what this is all about? Integrity in what? When it comes to OTCs, or over the counter derivatives, it is really the integrity of promisory notes of one kind or another. The integrity of a contract.
This crisis was enabled in Washington D.C, and was amplified by those willing to sign onto mortgages that they couldn't repay. The lack of integrity of individuals was transferred to paper, and given the illusion of value. As long as everyone played along, and pretended the paper was worth something, it was put on the balance sheet, and showed up in the price of shares of the various institutions. Individuals, perhaps even in good faith made promises they didn't know they would be able to keep. Other individuals with a little government encouragement, took out loans because they had a right to a house (so they were told), knowing they could only make token payments. This paper was concentrated in the larger banks. These banks wouldn't have done this if the government hadn't backed them, which they did through Fannie and Freddie. Alan Greenspan purjured himself before congress when he blamed the banks instead of the government. I would expect the be held in contempt if ever taken before that pack of wolves.
Housing prices fell in mid 2008, ever so slightly, and Fannie and Freddie were taken over. These events were inevitable and had been predicted years in advance, and despite the curious timing, (occuring shortly before an election) were only made possible because of the initial lack of honesty and integrity of the people as a whole.
We are in a hell of our own making, collectively. Lets not fool ourselves into blaming wall street corporations, although they took advantage of the situation. Let us blame ourselves if we overextended ourselves. The blame, however, lies even more with those in Washington who set this trap under the guise of "Fair" housing. They fully understood, having been warned years ago, what the inevitable outcome would be. I cannot believe they were merely stupid, or ignorant of economics as a whole. An attack on capitalism has been going on since before the New Deal, before capitalism was called capitalism (seeing as it was a term introduced by Karl Marx). Capitalism used to be known only as freedom. Freedom to go about business without government interference. The free market, which we haven't been operating under for some time, is what the attackers of freedom blame.
To complete this game of semantics then, we are undergoing an attack on freedom, brought about by a lack of honesty and integrity. The opportunists in Washington took advantage of the one to create the other, hoping we would turn to them when the crisis was made manifest. I am hopeful that the crisis is significant enough for everyone to see them for who they are, but not too costly in the real human life.
The free market has done more for the benefit of humankind than any institution or government that ever existed. Third world poverty has been at an all time low, and life expectancy has been at an all time high, because of the trickle of wealth and prosperity from wealthy countries to less wealthy countries, made possible by the free market. Capital will now flee the U.S. The value of the Dollar will fall precipitously in the next few years, and people across the world will suffer with us. There are no winners in this scenario. This is too expensive an education.