25 May 2007

Inconvenient Truths for Climate Modelers

Common wisdom states that it is easier to predict long-range climate than long-range weather. It isn't true, of course. But after 50 to 100 years, who is going to be around to rub it in your face?
A climate model, in contrast, must model more processes than in a weather model (such as biogeochemistry of vegetation on land and plants in the ocean; sea ice dynamics; aerosol processes; ocean circulation; ground freezing and thawing; snow accumulation and melt and sublimation, etc. - see). For some of these climate processes (which involve physics, biology and chemistry) they are modeled, as with a weather model, by a dynamical core and by parameterizations. These include sea ice dynamics and ocean circulation, which both have advection, pressure gradient and gravitational parts, as well as the parameterization of other effects (such as turbulence, phase changes of water). Some of the climate processes, such as biogeochemistry and biogeography have no dynamical core, and are completely parameterized models.

Thus, a climate model involves more parameterizations with their tunable components than for a weather model, as well as additional new state variables (such as salinity, ice, snow, vegetation type and its root depth etc) for which initial conditions are required for all of these variables.

The climate model also has no real world constraint such as supplied by real-world initial conditions (and for a regional model lateral boundary conditions). This real-world data constrains its predictions. Instead, the state variables required for the dynamic core of each component of the climate model (i.e. the state variables for the atmosphere, land, ocean and continental ice) must be generated from the parameterizations!

The claim by the IPCC that an imposed climate forcing (such as added atmospheric concentrations of CO2) can work through the parameterizations involved in the atmospheric, land, ocean and continental ice sheet components of the climate model to create skillful global and regional forecasts decades from now is a remarkable statement. That the IPCC states that this is a “much more easily solved problem than forecasting weather patterns just weeks from now” is clearly a ridiculous scientific claim. As compared with a weather model, with a multi-decadal climate model prediction there are more state variables, more parameterizations, and a lack of constraint from real-world observed values of the state variables.

Climate science is in its infancy. But having been adopted by politicians in the IPCC and EU, and by journalists in the mainstream media, computer modelers who use woefully inadequate GCM's as tools, are as bold as any Grand Inquisition. When you see yourself as part of a holy crusade--a movement of exquisite purity--there is no need to bother with normal standards of rigour. Momentum trumps science--for now.

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Blogger ncs said...

Well posted.

Best regards

Saturday, 26 May, 2007  
Blogger Chuck said...


Saturday, 26 May, 2007  
Blogger al fin said...


Saturday, 26 May, 2007  

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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