by Judith Curry
This Thursday, I will be visiting the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences (EAPS) at MIT, giving the Victor Starr Lecture.
Some background on Victor Starr and the Lectureship is [here].
Prof. Victor P. Starr was at MIT from 1937-1972, and from 1947 as a faculty member. He had extremely broad interests in the general areas of atmosphere, ocean and planets. Prof. Starr is perhaps best known for his pioneering work in understanding from observations the physics that actually sustains the atmospheric general circulation. He is reputed to have supervised more PhD theses in meteorology than anyone else in the history of MIT. Upon Starr’s death in 1974, the Department established the Victor P. Starr Lectureship.
The Victor Starr Lecture has been given annually since 1978. Previous lectures are listed [here].
Here is the title and abstract for my lecture:
Climate Science and the Uncertainty Monster
How to understand and reason about uncertainty in climate science is a topic that is receiving increasing attention in both the scientific and philosophical literature. This talk provides a perspective on exploring ways to understand, assess and reason about uncertainty in climate science, including application to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment reports. Uncertainty associated with climate science and the science-policy interface presents unique challenges owing to complexity of the climate system itself, the potential for adverse socioeconomic impacts of climate change, and politicization of proposed policies to reduce societal vulnerability to climate change. The challenges to handling uncertainty at the science-policy interface are framed using the ‘monster’ metaphor, whereby attempts to tame the monster are described. Uncertainty of climate models is interpreted in the context of model inadequacy, uncertainty in model parameter values, and initial condition uncertainty. The challenges of building confidence in climate models are described. The treatment of uncertainty in the IPCC assessment reports is examined, including the IPCC 4th Assessment Report conclusion regarding the attribution of climate change in the latter half of the 20th century. Ideas for monster taming strategies are discussed for institutions, individual scientists, and communities.
This talk is a revised and expanded version of the talk I presented at the American Chemical Society meeting a few weeks ago. I received some good comments from the Denizens, and in light of these I have modified my talk to introduce the uncertainty monster earlier, clarify some of the explanations, and provide more personal perspective. I’ve also changed the talk to provide more academic/technical content, given the audience.
The current draft of my talk can be found [hereuncertainty monster mit]. I would certainly appreciate any comments or suggestions.
I’m very much looking forward to my visit. It will be interesting to see how this audience reacts to my lecture.