Workshop on attribution of extreme events

by Judith Curry

Better models are needed before exceptional events can be reliably linked to global warming. – Nature

Last week, a Workshop was held at Oxford University on Attribution of Climate and Weather Extremes: Assessing, Anticipating, and Communicating Climate Risks.  The website for the Workshop is [here], but it is not very informative.

Nature has a very interesting editorial on the Workshop, some excerpts (JC bold):

So lawyers, insurers and climate negotiators are watching with interest the emerging ability, arising from improvements in climate models, to calculate how anthropogenic global warming will change, or has changed, the probability and magnitude of extreme weather and other climate-related events. But to make this emerging science of ‘climate attribution’ fit to inform legal and societal decisions will require enormous research effort.

Event attribution is one of the proposed ‘climate services’ — seasonal climate prediction is another — that are intended to provide society with the information needed to manage the risks and costs associated with climate change. 

At a workshop last week in Oxford, UK, convened by the Attribution of Climate-related Events group — a loose coalition of scientists from both sides of the Atlantic — some speakers questioned whether event attribution was possible at all. It currently rests on a comparison of the probability of an observed weather event in the real world with that of the ‘same’ event in a hypothetical world without global warming. One critic argued that, given the insufficient observational data and the coarse and mathematically far-from-perfect climate models used to generate attribution claims, they are unjustifiably speculative, basically unverifiable and better not made at all. And even if event attribution were reliable, another speaker added, the notion that it is useful for any section of society is unproven.

Both critics have a point, but their pessimistic conclusion — that climate attribution is a non-starter — is too harsh. It is true that many climate models are currently not fit for that purpose, but they can be improved. Evaluation of how often a climate model produces a good representation of the type of event in question, and whether it does so for the right reasons, must become integral to any attribution exercise. And when communicating their results, scientists must be open about shortcomings in the models used.

It is more difficult to make the case for ‘usefulness’. None of the industry and government experts at the workshop could think of any concrete example in which an attribution might inform business or political decision-making. Especially in poor countries, the losses arising from extreme weather have often as much to do with poverty, poor health and government corruption as with a change in climate. 

RealClimate also has a post on the Workshop.  They answer the criticism that the whole exercise is pointless, in the following way (JC bold):

Do the critics (and Nature sort-of) have a point? Let’s take the utility argument first (since if there is no utility in doing something, the potentially speculative nature of the analysis is moot). It is obviously the case that people are curious about this issue: I never get as many media calls as in the wake of an extreme weather event of some sort. And the argument for science merely as a response to human curiosity about the world is a strong one.  And if these changes can be laid at the feet of specific climate drivers, then they can certainly add to the costs of business-as-usual scenarios which are then often compared to the cost of mitigation. Therefore improved attribution of shifts in extremes (in whatever direction) have the potential to change cost-benefit calculations and thus policy directions.

JC comments: In agreement with the Nature editorial, I have written numerous previous points on why I think this exercise is pointless:

As per the RC essay, the rationale for attempting this seems to be driven by scientists thinking that this would be useful for influencing policy directions.  To claim that the public and media interest in this is pure ‘curiosity’ (e.g. is there life on Mars) because of the large media interest surrounding this issue, seems naive at best; this interest is almost certainly driven by the interest of issue advocates in using extreme events to argue for mitigation policies.

People at the workshop from the insurance sector, lawyers, and government policy makers apparently see no use for these attribution exercises.  Nevertheless, extreme event attribution is at the heart of the ‘climate service’ concept (which thankfully is still at best an unrealized concept).  There has been a lot of wishful thinking (i.e. climate models are capable of attributing the causes of extreme events) and circular logic in terms of what the public and decisions makers need and want in trying to pass this stuff off as ‘climate services.’

Kudos to Nature for their insightful comments on this.

100 responses to “Workshop on attribution of extreme events

  1. > It’s a pain in the neck.

    — Richard Feynman, about the Nobel Prize.

  2. Agreed, but on the other-hand one extreme event – a 2012 record minimum in arctic sea ice extent – can be attributed to man-made global warming by weight of evidence.

    Reconstructed changes in Arctic sea ice over the
    past 1,450 years (2011)
    “Here we use a network of high-resolution terrestrial proxies from the circum-Arctic region to reconstruct past extents of summer sea ice, and show that—although extensive uncertainties remain, especially before the sixteenth century—both the duration and magnitude of the current
    decline in sea ice seem to be unprecedented for the past 1,450 years”
    http://www.geotop.ca/pdf/devernalA/Kinnard_et_al_nature_2011.pdf

    Enhanced Modern Heat Transfer to the Arctic by Warm Atlantic Water (2011)
    “We find that early–21st-century temperatures of Atlantic Water entering the Arctic Ocean are unprecedented over the past 2000 years and are presumably linked to the Arctic amplification of global warming.”
    http://www.sciencemag.org/content/331/6016/450.abstract

    Observations reveal external driver for Arctic sea-ice retreat (2012)
    “We find that the available observations are sufficient to virtually exclude internal variability and self-acceleration as an explanation for the observed long-term trend, clustering, and magnitude of recent sea-ice minima. Instead, the recent retreat is well described by the superposition of an externally forced linear trend and internal variability. For the externally forced trend, we find a physically plausible strong correlation only with increasing atmospheric CO2 concentration. Our results hence show that the observed evolution of Arctic sea-ice extent is consistent with the claim that virtually certainly the impact of an anthropogenic climate change is observable in Arctic sea ice already today.”
    http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2012/2012GL051094.shtml

    Sources of multi-decadal variability in Arctic sea ice extent (2012)
    Only 44% of 1979–2005 September SIE trend can be explained by
    natural variability.
    http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/7/3/034011

    • lolwot, you write “Agreed, but on the other-hand one extreme event – a 2012 record minimum in arctic sea ice extent – can be attributed to man-made global warming by weight of evidence.”

      We just had two long discussions on this topic and how you come to this conclusion, I have no idea. It has been pointed out over and over again that Antarctic sea ice is at a record maximum extent. Herman Alexander Pope points ou that it is the temperature of the oceans that controls the melting and freezing of Arctic and Antarctic sea ice. And no-one has come up with any explanation as to how CAGW can, at the same time, cause the Arctic ocean temperaturess to be extra warm, and the Antarctic oceans to be extra cold.

      No. The evidence from this year’s sea ice at BOTH poles, is that whatever happened in the Arctic, it was regional, not global, and nothing whatsoever to do with CAGW.

      • nothing whatsoever to do with CAGW.

        Is Jim Cripwell right at the top of his voice, or wrong? Whichever, it’s at the top of his voice. He doth protest too much, methinks.

      • Dr. Pratt, I was looking into the possibility of natural variability being responsible for the 14.5 year lag you found. When you compare the AMO to the SO there is a dampened oscillation that appears likely to be the culprit.
        http://redneckphysics.blogspot.com/2012/09/states-of-climate-ii.html
        The oscillation appears to be dampened by the approach to a hetroclinic cycle stability region associated with North Atlantic and South Atlantic heat capacity equalization. That should signal the much talked about AMO shift to cooling mode, though it doesn’t look like as much cooling as the 1945ish shift. Kinda interesting I thought.

      • I estimate the 15 year lag over the whole period 1850-2010. However without the last 3-4 decades of data I would be surprised if I could make any estimate because the lag is only noticeable as the result of temperature following a curve that is shaped the way the log of the Keeling curve was shaped 15 years earlier.

        Which of the three figures on your page is the relevant one, and how would it impact this shape comparison?

      • There is ample evidence that arctic sea ice decline is being driven by human greenhouse gas emissions. Further loss and eventual ice free conditions are inevitable if human emissions continue.

      • lolwot, you write “There is ample evidence that arctic sea ice decline is being driven by human greenhouse gas emissions.”

        Fair enough. Where is all this evidence? Why was it not presented in detail on the two threads we have just had? Where are the peer reviewed publicatins which lay out this evidence in detail?

        The fact of the matter is that the evidence is simply not there. It does not exist. This is merely the propoganda repeated ad nauseum by the proponents of CAGW, in the hope that if a lie is repeated often enough, people will believe it.

        If the nevidence you claim exists, lolwot, then please produce it.

      • “Where is all this evidence? Why was it not presented in detail on the two threads we have just had? ”

        Hmm you are right I should have posted the evidence. Here’s some of the evidence:

        Reconstructed changes in Arctic sea ice over the
        past 1,450 years (2011)
        “Here we use a network of high-resolution terrestrial proxies from the circum-Arctic region to reconstruct past extents of summer sea ice, and show that—although extensive uncertainties remain, especially before the sixteenth century—both the duration and magnitude of the current
        decline in sea ice seem to be unprecedented for the past 1,450 years”
        http://www.geotop.ca/pdf/devernalA/Kinnard_et_al_nature_2011.pdf

        Enhanced Modern Heat Transfer to the Arctic by Warm Atlantic Water (2011)
        “We find that early–21st-century temperatures of Atlantic Water entering the Arctic Ocean are unprecedented over the past 2000 years and are presumably linked to the Arctic amplification of global warming.”
        http://www.sciencemag.org/content/331/6016/450.abstract

        Observations reveal external driver for Arctic sea-ice retreat (2012)
        “We find that the available observations are sufficient to virtually exclude internal variability and self-acceleration as an explanation for the observed long-term trend, clustering, and magnitude of recent sea-ice minima. Instead, the recent retreat is well described by the superposition of an externally forced linear trend and internal variability. For the externally forced trend, we find a physically plausible strong correlation only with increasing atmospheric CO2 concentration. Our results hence show that the observed evolution of Arctic sea-ice extent is consistent with the claim that virtually certainly the impact of an anthropogenic climate change is observable in Arctic sea ice already today.”
        http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2012/2012GL051094.shtml

        Sources of multi-decadal variability in Arctic sea ice extent (2012)
        Only 44% of 1979–2005 September SIE trend can be explained by
        natural variability.
        http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/7/3/034011

      • Evidence for human causation of Antarctic Sea Ice increase:

        Dr John Turner, British Antarctic Survey: “Our results show the complexity of climate change across the Earth. While there is increasing evidence that the loss of sea ice in the Arctic has occurred due to human activity, in the Antarctic human influence through the ozone hole has had the reverse effect and resulted in more ice. Although the ozone hole is in many ways holding back the effects of greenhouse gas increases on the Antarctic, this will not last, as we expect ozone levels to recover by the end of the 21st Century. By then there is likely to be around one third less Antarctic sea ice.”
        http://www.antarctica.ac.uk/press/press_releases/press_release.php?id=838

        NASA: “The results of analysis of MODIS, AMSR-E and SSM/I data reveal that the sea ice production rate at the coastal polynyas along the Ross Ice Shelf has been increasing since 1992. This also means that the salinization rate and the formation of bottom water in the region are going up as well. Simulation studies indicate that the stronger production rate is likely associated with the ozone hole that has caused a deepening of the lows in the West Antarctic region and therefore stronger winds off the Ross Ice Shelf. Stronger winds causes larger coastal polynyas near the shelf and hence an enhanced ice production in the region during the autumn and winter period.”
        http://ntrs.nasa.gov/search.jsp?R=20120013478

      • lolwot,

        Artic sea ice decline is evidence but driven by human greenhouse gas emissions evidence has yet to exist. It only exist only in climate modeling jesters GIGOs fantasies.

      • You are free to deny the evidence, sure, I won’t stop you.

      • Fair enough. I stand corrected. Let me just add, I am completely unconvinced, but I cannot prove that you are wrong. I will wait to see what happens for the rest of the decade.

      • You are free to BS here and I cannot stop you.

      • Lolwot, you wrote: Evidence for human causation of Antarctic Sea Ice increase: You should change the word Evidence to Opinion. There is no evidence in this but there is a lot of opinion.

      • Antarctic sea ice increase is likely driven by human activity of a different kind – CFC emissions which have increased the growth of the ozone hole which has in turn strengthened winds at the surface surrounding Antarctica, which are responsible for a marginal ice gain over decades.

      • Before scientific validation, CFC causing Antartica sea ice gain is BS.

    • Lolwot:

      Suppose:

      1) You’re right: GHGs are driving all arctic ice reduction.
      2) Nations are unwilling to reduce GHG emissions.

      What then? What good does the attribution do? It’s a consolation prize for GHG emissions reduction advocates, but nothing else.

      But more than likely (1) is false: GHG emissions are driving some indeterminable fraction of ice reduction. So what? Given that (2) is still true, where’s the relevance?

  3. The pure curiosity-driven research rationale given at RC is pretty rich, since the gigantic level of support given to climate studies relative to other earth-science topics is entirely due to the policy-relevance of the subject.

    Here’s an all too routine example:
    http://www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/S34/62/66A98/

    From the university press release:
    In announcing the funds, Lautenberg said: “Despite claims from misguided politicians, climate change is a real threat and addressing it is one of the most important challenges that confronts our nation. The extreme weather causing destruction in America and around the globe is simply a sign of things to come if we do not act to stem the worst effects of climate change. Princeton is home to some of the greatest scientists in the world and we’re proud to help them advance climate change research.”

    No partisanship or policy ax-grinding here. Nosirree, just another $3 million for pure research on climate extremes.

    • But, conversely, this seems to make RC’s mitigation information argument correct. The huge climate research budget is all about resolving the mitigation decision issue, so attribution is central.

      In that context the real question is will the proposed research help resolve that issue? I think not, because first we have to understand natural variability, which is now the central problem.

  4. Willis Eschenbach

    Judith, thank you for drawing attention to this very important issue, and for your insightful comments.

    My main reservation about the Nature article was this:

    Both critics have a point, but their pessimistic conclusion — that climate attribution is a non-starter — is too harsh. It is true that many climate models are currently not fit for that purpose, but they can be improved.

    What is true is that there is not a single climate model that is currently fit for that purpose. Not one.

    And given the lack of progress in the models, while no doubt they “can be improved” as Nature says, to date there is little sign of significant improvement.

    Despite huge increases in computer size, speed, and power, and despite huge increases in the sizes of the computer models themselves, and despite hundreds of thousands of man-hours of effort, we still have no better estimate of the so-called “climate sensitivity” than we had thirty years ago. We still do not have models useful on decadal scales. We still do not have models useful on regional scales. The models do no better than chance in forecasting rainfall patterns. And as Nature points out, we still do not have models useful for attribution.

    So where is the improvement? Where are the breakthroughs? The model results are little better than they were a decade ago, or two decades ago. What other field of science has shown such little progress over a couple of decades?

    I hold that this lack of progress arises from a fundamental misunderstanding—the idea that the surface temperature of the global heat engine we call the “climate” is a linear function of the energy input. In no other complex system do we see such linearity. Nor is there any reason to assume a system as complex as the climate would show such linearity.

    Instead of being a linear function of forcing, the surface temperature of the planet is maintained by a host of interlocking natural homeostatic mechanisms that tend to minimize the perturbations and variations arising from changing circumstances and inputs. These mechanisms are what regulate the temperature of the earth.

    Unfortunately, the current climate models have been built around the incorrect hypothesis regarding surface temperature. As a result, they are nothing but machines for predicting increasing temperatures. Because they are built to show surface temperature as a linear function of forcing, as a result when modeled CO2 rises, all of them agree that temperatures must rise as well.

    But why must they rise? A trivial change in cloud cover is more than enough to offset all that CO2 could possibly do … and the clouds are a large part of the temperature regulation system.

    w.

    • If you are claiming clouds are a net cooling influence, can you site studies that agree with you and studies that disagree with you?

      • How about a we don’t know”
        ” It is shown that the results of a previous analysis, which suggested a likely positive value for the short-term cloud feedback, depended upon combining all-sky radiative fluxes from NASA’s Clouds and Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES) with reanalysis clear-sky forecast fluxes when determining the cloud radiative forcing (CRF). These results are contradicted when ΔCRF is derived using both all-sky and clear-sky measurements from CERES over the same period.”

        http://www.earth-syst-dynam.net/3/97/2012/esd-3-97-2012.html

        Fairly invigorating discussion in the peer review process for that one.

      • I thought Willis said he did know.

      • Chief Hydrologist

        Of course clouds are a net cooling influence – it is the major part of albedo. The right question to ask is how and why clouds change – and why the hell you think they don’t.

      • Where I live, clouds change all the time. Can’t say I’ve noticed a trend, but I don’t go around looking up at the sky all the time. Birds just dump whenever they like, you know.

        When do clouds change? I would say before and after rain or snow, and sometimes for no good reason.

        Do you have any cloud science? I like science, as long as it’s not too complicated.

      • Chief Hydrologist

        Some people have noticed a change in cloud in places.

        http://www.arctic.noaa.gov/detect/climate-clouds.shtml

        I am inclined to think that the major influence on cloud radiative forcing is in the central and north east Pacific – negtivelyy correlaated with SST. It shows in ICOADS, ISCCP-FD and ERBS data.

        https://judithcurry.com/2011/02/09/decadal-variability-of-clouds/

        Science – you can’t handle the science. Too busy with bird doo I suppose.

      • Chief Hydrologist

        ‘The overall slight rise (relative heating) of global total net flux at TOA between the 1980’s and 1990’s is confirmed in the tropics by the ERBS measurements and exceeds the estimated climate forcing changes (greenhouse gases and aerosols) for this period. The most obvious explanation is the associated changes in cloudiness during this period. ‘

        http://isccp.giss.nasa.gov/projects/browse_fc.html

        There are a few wrinkles with this data – but TOA flux anomalies seem OK in the FD edition.

      • Chief Hydrologist

        ‘In summary, although there is independent evidence for decadal changes in TOA radiative fluxes over the last two decades, the evidence is equivocal. Changes in the planetary and tropical TOA radiative fluxes are consistent with independent global ocean heat-storage data, and are expected to be dominated by changes in cloud radiative forcing. To the extent that they are real, they may simply reflect natural low-frequency variability of the climate system.’ IPCC s3.4.4.1

        Funny hey. I’d say clouds mostly form over oceans and rain falls within about 4 days of evaporating. One of the big global players is in the central and north east Pacific. I would say floods in Australia and Indonesia, bigger monsoon wets in India, more rain in parts of China and Africa, and emerging dustbowl conditions in the grain growing regions of the US over the next decade or three. Oh wait – that’s already happpening and I did say it. Far from on my own I might add. That’s hydrologists for you – go figure.

        Don’t worry – we Aussies are gearing up to double food production in the next decade. All it will cost you for a coffee and a donut is a thankyou and $5.

      • Chief Hydrologist September 22, 2012 at 12:04 am
        Some people have noticed a change in cloud in places.

        http://www.arctic.noaa.gov/detect/climate-clouds.shtml
        ___
        The link says there’s neen a trend to more fractional clouding in the arctic. As we know, the arctic has a warming trend.

        More fractional clouding contributed to arctic warming?

        Arctic warming woud have been even greater if not for increases in fractional clouding ?

      • Chief Hydrologist

        ‘‘Drought over north America has been correlated to the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. The correlations account for the drought in the Great Plains during the 1930s dust bowl and more recent droughts…

        The relationship between drought in the continental US and the phases of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) and the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO). The most severe droughts occur when the PDO is in a negative phase, and the AMO is in a positive phase.’

        Cloud can very well contribute to warming by slowing cooling. The difference bewtween temps on a cloudy and clear night is obvious. But you asked me about cloud change science – I don’t decide arbitrarily which data I accept. I’m a bit like the chimp that way.

      • I’ll pass on comparing you to a monkey.

        But I do have a suggestion. Your handle, “Chief Hydrologist,” is hard to pronounce, and can cause tongue biting and spittle spewing.

        How about “Chief Running Water” for your handle ? Just a suggestion.

      • Of course clouds are a net cooling influence – it is the major part of albedo. The right question to ask is how and why clouds change – and why the hell you think they don’t.

        Some clouds have a cooling effect, reflecting incoming sunlight, others have a warming effect, trapping IR. It depends on which kind of cloud. Of course clouds change, whether that has a positive or negative effect depends on the extent to which the different inds of clouds are effected and the direction of the change.

      • Chief Hydrologist

        ‘The overall reflectance (albedo) of planet Earth is about 30 percent, meaning that about 30 percent of the incoming shortwave solar radiation is radiated back to space. If all clouds were removed, the global albedo would decrease to about 15 percent, and the amount of shortwave energy available for warming the planet surface would increase from 239 W/m2 to 288 W/m2 (Hartmann 1994). However, the longwave radiation would also be affected, with 266 W/m2 being emitted to space, compared to the present 234 W/m2 (Hartmann 1994). The net effect of removing all clouds would therefore still be an increase in net radiation of about 17 W/m2. So the global cloud cover has a clear overall cooling effect on the planet, even though the net effect of high and low clouds are opposite (see figure above). This is not a pure theoretical consideration, but is demonstrated by observations (see diagram below).’ http://www.climate4you.com/ClimateAndClouds.htm#Cloud albedo

      • Clouds have a net cooling effect because they’re part and parcel of the Water Cycle, which AGW fisics has excised.

        Heated water evaporates and with its great heat capacity takes away heat from the Earth’s surface, as this hot water vapour rises into the heights of the cold troposphere it releases this heat and condenses back into liquid water or ice, forming clouds.

        The Water Cycle cools the Earth, bringing the temps down from the 67°C it would be with our atmosphere, of mainly nitrogen and oxygen, but without water – think Deserts.

        Without the “greenhouse gas water” Earth would be 52°C hotter.

        It has nothing to do with ‘albedo’ of visible light reflected off clouds, visible light is not a thermal energy and plays no part in directly heating the Earth’s land and oceans.

        And if you say it does, then it must be heating the clouds not reflecting off them, because clouds are water and matter.

      • “How about “Chief Running Water” for your handle ? Just a suggestion.”

        Chief is a sanitation engineer in his day job. He wants to use all the chaos theory that he learns from Anastasios Tsonis, of the Atmospheric Sciences Group at University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee and colleagues, to perfect how to get the toilet water to circulate in the opposite direction when it gets flushed, like it does in Milwaukee.

        The stupid, it hurts. It really hurts a lot when I try to write like Chief Dingo.

      • Chief Hydrologist

        Chimp or not – I find my moniker comfortable. As I explained just yesterday. It derives from Cecil (he spent four years in clown school – I’ll thank you not to refer to Princeton like that) Terwilliger. Cecil was Springfield’s Chief Hydrological and Hydraulical Engineer until an unfortunate run in with Bart of the Simpson variety. Cecil is of the opinion that hydrological engineering was a sacred vocation in some cultures. I think that it should be still. Water is of fundamental importance in all aspects of our lives and is the essence of climate. I have decided that the moniker suits me. It is like an old and comfortable pair of shoes. Webby has placed me in his file of climate clowns – although I have pointed out the incongruity of accusing someone who self identifies with a clown as a clown. Webby is not one for subtleties.

        People call me Chief – I quite like it.

        How are you for subtleties – sunshine?

      • Chief,

        So you aren’t a real chief but you’d just like to be called that? You weren’t a Chief Hydrologist in your working years, and not even a hydologist?

        So what were you?

        I might like it if people called me ‘Your Royal Highness’, but I doubt that giving myself the title Prince Tempterrain would make that happen!

      • Chief Hydrologist

        TT – if you had been listening you would know that I am an engineer specialising in hydrology and hydaulics – modelling for the most part – and I have a masters in environmental science. So I specialise in water quality – biogeochemical cycling to give it a name – and quantity. But environmental science is so much more. It is about combining disciplines in focused teams to create synergistic solutions to environmental problems. So I have wide smattering of knowledge of archeaology to zoology. Enough to talk the talk if not walk the walk to be team leader on many projects up to a billion dollars or more.

        In many settings it is a matter of using water wisley in all its guises. This is called integrated water cycle management in the jargon. So I can model not just water use in a setting, but also stormwater capture, treatment and reuse of sewage effluent – to make the most efficient and environmental friendly use of our high value water resources. And keep nutrients and pollutants out of our rivers and oceans. As an Australian you would appreciate the importance of that.

        I am still very much working – don’t see that ending at all and am still looking for bigger and better projects. So I am not really a sanitation engineer – although there is nothing to be ashamed of in that. Water and sewerage engineering grew out of military engineering in 18th century England – and has preserved many millions of lives since.

        But I am a technologist and I can put together a lime precipitation module with sulphate stripping and reverse osmosis to treat acid mine drainage to a potable standard for instance, or a low cost, small footprint, high performance sewage treatment system to provide water for sporting fields, golf courses, etc. I can even model the irrigation system and the flow of nutrients through plants and soils. The vortex in a cistern – btw – has nothing to do with the Coriolis force but with random differences in configuration.

        Yes I am a hydrologist by training and with decades of experience. I model various things to do with water and landscape. I am an environmental scientist also with decades of experience. The two are complementary because I put together teams and input specialist expertise.

        The webster doesn’t get it – it is the autism spectrum disorder on which I am not remotely denigrating him. It is difficult behaviour but I truly understand and am willing to make allowances. Having stopped replying in kind because it makes absolutely no difference.

        Calling myself Chief Hydrologist would seem a bit of a w@nk really – if it were not a cultural reference to something as enduring and as silly but wise as The Simpsons. “Spider pig..spider pig… does whatever a spider pig does.”

        Do you truly not get it? I will have to send a memo to Cecil.

      • Temp,

        Yr: “I might like it if people called me ‘Your Royal Highness…”

        Temp, I think I finally cracked the code and figured out just what makes you “tick.” My former estimate of you was that you had some sort of a tawdry, make-a-buck angle to your quantity-not-quality, relentless, robotic advocacy of the CAGW scam. But that’s not it, is it, temp?

        I mean, like, based on your last comment, temp, I’m now thinkin’ along the line that you’re just a jumped-up prole–a parvenu with pretensions far above your natural station in life and with a gnawing fear that your newly-acquired “respectability”, such as it is, might slip from your fingers at any moment.

        And the reason you’ve thrown in your lot with the lefties, temp? Well, temp, my guess there is that you’ve got it figured out that should your greenshirt-good-comrades-of-convenience pull off their little, watermelon-flavored, brave-new-gulag, CAGW-hustle comeback, then you’d in a position, temp, to cash in on the reshuffle of the deck and get yourself a gig as one of our brave-new-politburo “Philosopher-Kings”.

        And then you’d be a real-life, bona-fide “King”–right, temp? And then all us insensitive, useless-eater nobodies, who laughed at your doofus, I-wanna-be-addressed-as-“Your-Royal-HIghness”-wah!-wah!, hey-temp!-you-in-there-striking-regal-poses-in-the-bathroom-mirror-again?, they’ll-all-be-really-really-sorry-they-made-fun-of-my-status-anxieties-when-I-become-King!, nut-ball fantasies, will have to roll-over and play the obsequious helot and call you “Your Royal Highness”–just like you always hoped and dreamed, temp.

        O Brother!

    • @Willis Essenbach: We still do not have models useful on decadal scales. We still do not have models useful on regional scales. The models do no better than chance in forecasting rainfall patterns.

      How does that have any bearing whatsoever on the likely global temperature in 2050? It is well known that short term predictions are much harder than long term You seem to be taking the opposite viewpoint.

      • Chief Hydrologist

        Of course we are taking the opposite view. Both climate and weather are chaotic. Didn’t get the memo? Initialise models need $5 billion and 2000 times more computing power (Hurrell et al 2009). Models themselves are chaotic so even if climate didn’t shift (very unlikely) the models certainly divirge exponentially with time. So there are a large number of solutions for temperature in 100 years – including those that show runaway warming an cooling. How do they tell the right solution? Now that is a Delphic mystery.

      • Chief Hydrologist

        The weather is somewhat predictable from what can be called standing waves in the climate system. Such as the correlations between US drought and sea surface temperature copied above. The next decade or three is somwhat pedictable because these anomalies persist for decades that we know of.

        ‘Using a new measure of coupling strength, this update shows that these climate modes have recently synchronized, with synchronization peaking in the year 2001/02. This synchronization has been followed by an
        increase in coupling. This suggests that the climate system may well have shifted again, with a consequent break in the global mean temperature rend from the post 1976/77 warming to a new period (indeterminate length) of roughly constant global mean temperature.
        Swanson and Tsonis 2009 – ‘Has the climate recently shifted’

        Beyond that? Goood luck with your portfolio.

      • Chief Hydrologist

        Let me clatify. Weather is of course somewhat predictable over a matter of days from initialised models, seasonally by means of correlation with SST – http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/ahead/rain_ahead.shtml

      • The stock market is a good analogy. I wouldn’t bet on what the market will do next week, next month, or even next year. But I would bet on what it will do over the long-term. And I do, with real money.

      • Chief Hydrologist

        Let me clarify? Losing the thred is a sign to call it a day.

      • peterdavies252

        +1

      • You say: ” It is well known that short term predictions are much harder than long term You seem to be taking the opposite viewpoint.” In the case of the atmospheric behaviour, I would have supposed exactly the opposite.
        On what do you base your point of view?

      • I am looking forward to the answer to your question (with proper substantiation, of course)!

      • Peter Lang,

        You seem to ask of others what you are clearly unwilling to do yourself!

        As Max_OK has said the stock market can be a good analogy but I’ve never had much confidence to take much of a risk myself. I’ve probably done much better in the property market though and that’s the same story. I’ve occasionally taken short term losses but overall and in the longer term I’m well ahead and that was always easy to predict.

      • @PA: You say: ” It is well known that short term predictions are much harder than long term You seem to be taking the opposite viewpoint.” In the case of the atmospheric behaviour, I would have supposed exactly the opposite. On what do you base your point of view?

        (Sorry about the delay, I’m not online often enough to catch some of these questions.)

        This is an excellent question. I would answer it with the last four decades of Muller’s BEST data. (All plots have been smoothed with a moving average window 1/40 of the plot width.)

        This can be summarized very simply as follows: whereas individual decades look random (and therefore impossible to either forecast or hindcast from), when viewed as one 40-year phenomenon a clear pattern emerges (which is very easy to forecast or hindcast from).

        This has nothing to do with mathematics or statistics. Rather it is a feature of modern global warming, a unique event in the planet’s history. I would be happy to bet that there has been no other 40-year period in Earth’s last billion years where each of four individual decades looks so random while the four as a single unit looks so systematic.

    • “I hold that this lack of progress arises from a fundamental misunderstanding—the idea that the surface temperature of the global heat engine we call the “climate” is a linear function of the energy input. In no other complex system do we see such linearity. Nor is there any reason to assume a system as complex as the climate would show such linearity.”

      There is a reason to assume it: stefan-boltzmann law.

      We don’t need to assume it though. The climate models show surface temperature is a linear function of the energy input.

      Climate models are complex enough. Apart from more conspiracy theories can you explain why climate models would exhibit such a behavior you think should be impossible of complex systems?

      • Chief Hydrologist

        I think SB might be exponential to the fourth power. Solutions of AOS are chaotic and diverge – many possible solutions within a feasible input space including runaway warming and cooling. I don’t know numbnut – it is a bit of a Delphic mystery,

    • David Springer

      There is no single “climate sensitivity” to estimate. That’s the whole problem. If the earth were a grey body the sensitivity is simple matter of physical law, although it’s still a formula because of T4 relationship between power and temperature.

      http://www.spectralcalc.com/blackbody_calculator/blackbody.php

      The problem is the earth isn’t an approximate grey body. Not even close. As a result there’s nothing close to a single sensitivity figure for it. The greyness changes from place to place and time to time and predicting how and when the greyness changes is intractible. Further complicating the matter is redistribution of energy in three dimensions by fluid mechanics, latent transport, phase changes of water, and thermal buffering by a dynamic ocean. Every one of these things effects the instant sensitivity at any one place or any one time.

      • Dave Springer,

        “There is no single “climate sensitivity” to estimate”. There are those who say the Earth doesn’t have a single temperature either. Or a single value of albedo. Or the climate is so highly nonlinear, and/or so chaotic, that there’s no hope of understanding anything.

        Its all very pedantic. The straightforward fact is that there is a climate sensitivity to be estimated in terms of the rise from 280ppmv of CO2 to 560ppmv of CO2. Our estimate won’t be perfect, and as Judith never tires of telling us there is a level of uncertainty, but the parameter we are looking for can at least be defined.

    • Aside from model competence, the fundamental question of “what is an extreme” is fudged in every example I’ve seen. “How do you know it’s extreme?” must be answered up front.

  5. WE, I would agree withnyour general sentiment. Just finished a book that has a chapter on this. Was proofing it today.
    But I suspect the problems may be insurmountable on the time and geography scales you say would be of most interest (e.g. Decadal, regional, annual regional precipitation…). The reason is your observation that climate and weather are nonlinear systems. Plus your observation that there are negative feedback loops. Combined, this means the actual systems are mathematically chaotic. One of the consequences (as I am sure you know, discovered by meteorologist Ed Lorenz of MIT) is sensitive dependence on initial conditions. I see no way to get enough precision on initial conditions to take present weather forecasts (remarkable, for example the improvement in tropical storm projections) and extend to annual, decadal, or regional models in which we could put any faith.
    Following the Army’s first rule of holes, if it isn’t possible, then don’t spend money trying. The whole issue raised here and in a previous JC post about better models needs a lot more granularity before rushing off willy-nilly to try.

    • Rud,
      “One of the consequences (as I am sure you know, discovered by meteorologist Ed Lorenz of MIT) is sensitive dependence on initial conditions. I see no way to get enough precision on initial conditions to take present weather forecasts (remarkable, for example the improvement in tropical storm projections) and extend to annual, decadal, or regional models in which we could put any faith.”

      This is more or less what my A-level physics master taught us in 1968. That was after he had introduced us to the Tyndall Effect, adumbrated its implications for a CO2-enriched atmosphere, and cautioned us about a too-literal interpretation of the term ‘greenhouse effect’ (inter alia, greenhouses have roofs and walls, atmospheres don’t). He showed possible mechanisms for both cooling and warming, thus anticipating both the “global ice age” scare of the early 70s and it’s successor, the CAGW monster we have today. But the key insight, that climate was chaotically sensitive to initial conditions, and therefore not amenable to skilful computer modelling. I have seen nothing since that casts doubt on this advice, now 44 years old.

    • @Rud Istvan: Following the Army’s first rule of holes

      The first rule of attribution is to get your attributions correct. This rule is due to Texan Molly Ivins. AFAIK she had nothing whatsoever to do with the Army.

      • David Springer

        I live in Austin and didn’t even know Ivins died until I went to verify her as the original source of the first rule of holes. I guess that explains why I haven’t seen a column from her in quite a while. Her death must not have made the Drudge Report and I don’t follow local news consistently enough to not miss obituaries even for well known locals.

  6. Judith Curry,

    I am afraid that the proponents of attribution of extreme climate events suffers from what appears to be, on a global scale, a lack of awareness of history.

    The Russian Heat Wave of 2010 was no more than what has happened before, recorded in classical literature since 800 AD.

    Extreme cold, the Year Without Summer 1816 (other cold periods of the 1810’s), volcano eruption and low sun activity, produced rainfall and overwhelming flooding world wide (Rhine, Yangtze, etc.)

    Of course, invoking climate models for extreme climate attribution belies the mantra: All models are wrong, and, in this case, these aren’t even useful.

  7. Re: “One critic argued that, given the insufficient observational data and the coarse and mathematically far-from-perfect climate models used to generate attribution claims, they are unjustifiably speculative, basically unverifiable and better not made at all. ”
    The abominably poor state of GCM prediction is exposed by efforts of Koutsoyiannis et al at validation GCMs against actual station data for 100 years. e.g. see:
    A comparison of local and aggregated climate model outputs with observed data G. G. Anagnostopoulos, D. Koutsoyiannis, A. Christofides, A. Efstratiadis & N. Mamassis, Hydrological Sciences Journal – Journal des Sciences Hydrologiques, 55(7) 2010

    Examining the local performance of the models at 55 points, we found that local projections do not correlate well with observed measurements. Furthermore, we found that the correlation at a large spatial scale, i.e. the contiguous USA, is worse than at the local scale. . .

    They found effectively no skill at precipitation, and very poor skill at temperature. Koutsoyiannis propose moving to stochastic methods for improving skill.

    • “Koutsoyiannis propose moving to stochastic methods for improving skill.”

      Stefan-Boltzmann is a stochastically derived law.
      Planck’s law is a stochastically derived law.
      CO2 sequestration is a stochastically derived model.
      Thermal conductivity and convection is a stochastically derived law.

      In other words, everything that goes in to determining the transient and equilibrium climate sensitivities has a stochastic flavor. Whenever Andrew Lacis sees a need to do a drive-by, he always points this out. He essentially says, who cares about GCMs? They do get better but they are not the big ticket for determining the long-range outcome.

  8. And the argument for science merely as a response to human curiosity about the world is a strong one

    I understand that both the British and American civil service keep briefing documents for incoming Prime Ministers and Presidents detailing the information they have on UFO’s, alien visitations and the various stories of cover-ups.
    They have these on hand because, human curiosity being what it is, the newcomer always asks about Roswell, Area 51 e.t.c.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/ufo/9392511/The-UFO-Files-Tony-Blair-briefed-on-alien-defence-policy.html

    The public have a huge appetite for paranormal research, especially in telepathy and ‘ghosts’. The number of funded researchers in paranormal research is tiny and completely out of proportion with public interest.

    Shall we take Gavin’s point to heart? Shall we divert funding from the tradition science and into areas where the public is interested? Paranormal science, UFO/Alien visitation science and ‘the dead amongst us’ departments would be a welcome addition to the universities, would be oversubscribed and, given the low teaching cost per student, would be wildly popular with vice-chancellors.

  9. “One critic argued that, given the insufficient observational data and the coarse and mathematically far-from-perfect climate models used to generate attribution claims, they are unjustifiably speculative, basically unverifiable and better not made at all.”
    _________

    Brings to mind a conservative think tank betting a chimpanzee could do better than the government in predicting hurricanes.

    http://www.nationalcenter.org/PR_Hurricane_Forecast_051810.html

    The conservative think tank lost, because the chimp intentionally made silly forecasts.

    • I forgot the link to an article on the the results, ” NOAA Makes Monkey Out of Chimp.”

      http://www.nationalcenter.org/PR_Hurricane_Hansimian_120110.html

      • Chief Hydrologist

        We can see this process in sharp relief when, following the philosopher Sir Isaiah Berlin, we classify experts as “hedgehogs” or “foxes.” Hedgehogs are big-idea thinkers in love with grand theories: libertarianism, Marxism, environmentalism, etc. Their self-confidence can be infectious. They know how to stoke momentum in an argument by multiplying reasons why they are right and others are wrong.
        That wins them media acclaim. But they don’t know when to slam the mental brakes by making concessions to other points of view. They take their theories too seriously. The result: hedgehogs make more mistakes, but they pile up more hits on Google.

        Eclectic foxes are better at curbing their ideological enthusiasms. They are comfortable with protracted uncertainty about who is right even in bitter debates, conceding gaps in their knowledge and granting legitimacy to opposing views. They sprinkle their conversations with linguistic qualifiers that limit the reach of their arguments: ‘but,’ ‘however,’ ‘although.’

        Because they avoid over-simplification, foxes make fewer mistakes. Foxes will often agree with hedgehogs up to a point, before complicating things: “Yes, my colleague is right that the Saudi monarchy is vulnerable, but remember that coups are rare and that the government commands many means of squelching opposition.”
        http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/how-accurate-are-your-pet-pundits-

        NOAA’s May outlooks have been wrong three out of the last four years – or 75% of the time,” said David Ridenour, vice president of The National Center for Public Policy Research. “We think our chimp can do better. He hasn’t been wrong so far. Of course, this is his very first hurricane season forecast.”

        Of course one would expect the chimp to be right some of the time purely by chance – for a large enough number of seasons.

      • Sure, the chimp can make right forecasts, some of the time, but the chimp also can make outrageous forecasts, unless you impose constraints on him, but if you do that, the chimp ain’t making the calls anymore.

      • Chief Hydrologist

        I think the chimp might be a metaphor for random. You don’t really think the chimp is making informed decisions about cyclone frequency?

      • I don’ know, but “random” isn’t as attention getting as “chimp.” See the video in my first link.

        Regardless, the stunt backfired.

      • Was this fair comparison? What would a consensus of chimps have predicted?

      • Chief Hydrologist

        global warming?

  10. I would first ask why ‘event attribution’ is an important climate service. Is this so they would know who to sue (in which case I’d be all for it)? Or, if not, what would be the purpose of knowing whether one particular flood or heatwave was due to greenhouse gases?
    To me, the concept is ridiculous. Climate changes the statistics not individual events. If the drought frequency doubles, we still can’t say which half are due to GHGs. The whole exercise as described is pointless.

    • Chief Hydrologist

      Bart needs to know so he can demand his cut of the loot – er – dividend.

    • Jim D | September 21, 2012 at 11:33 pm |

      I tend to agree with you. Apportionment of attribution is a matter of tort only.

      Some argue that cost/benefit analyses require attribution to derive the cost term. However, since cost/benefit is a ratio with the same attribution inputs to both sides of the equation, that’s just so much nonsense.. other than the part about benefits being asymmetrical: unsought benefits simply do not count when compared to unconsented harms. A trespass of a taste of porridge is the same as sleeping in Baby Bear’s bed.

      And Robert Ellison is mistaken: by the Law of Supply and Demand, the price of the Carbon Cycle is independent of attribution.

      • Chief Hydrologist

        Bart Rse is wrong if he believes that his fantasy world resembles the real world in any detail at all. But I am right – you are demanding your cut of a nonsensical and imaginary pie.

  11. One can consider extreme events short of constructing models with a hope that maybe some light will be shed and awareness increased. For example, this past summer in the US there was heat and drought in many regions. From many quarters the question arose “is this because of global warming?” or perhaps at a more basic level “are we seeing more of these events now than in the past?”. And not a few calculations sprang up showing there was an increase, there was not an increase…pick your poison…but the ciphering crush was typically both feudal and futile.

    Why not–with some level of societal concordance–take a page from the the hazardous waste site playbook and develop prediction intervals and tolerance intervals based on available data for a number of types of events and start monitoring events–tracking the number of annual occurrences for each type with comparison against the established intervals. We can have annual reports!

    Several things might happen including but not limited to: 1.) there will be more facility and agreement regarding the baseline data (including mundane things like its utility or lack thereof); 2.) we will be in a situation of actually predicting future events as opposed to rushing to explain recent events in a sensationalized media frenzy atmosphere; 3.) there will be a broader understanding of the difficulties inherent in rare events; 4.) the measures (intervals, etc.) will inform themselves by way of updating observations; 4) we will be monitoring for indications of a long timescale phenomenon (climate change) but using shorter-time scale observations (events); 5.) model validations can be facilitated; 6.) measures defined in a formal monitoring program could prove invaluable in the face of any actions–do nothing, adaption, mitigation, partial mitigation, evacuate the planet–and in the comparisons of these actions. [Translation–there is the possibility to purposefully rein in both hysterical and dismissive qualitative dialog]; 7.) We get a better idea of what we know and what don’t know–out in the open; 8.) we may discover that our measures are crap and we need something else. Good! The sooner we start the sooner we will learn that.

    Now some might say, “ooooh we can’t do thaaat because because because the data are not robuuust enough.” Well, if you can’t even count the events, tease out or even identify an already existing trend then you sure as h*ll can’t model the underlying physical system, and you might as well packup and go home. Would you take a model (or model ensemble) that predicts the number of events fairly well but misses on detail at some (coarse) level? Sure you would, and you do so presently (hurricanes?, winter snow events?) Why not use that information and start looking over the horizon, instead of the rear-view mirror.

    I suspect we predict/forecast a lot of these types of events every year so ‘models’ already exist; and we collect observations. Let’s just incorporate some of that information into formal monitoring program(s). BTW if some of these, i.e., the intervals, already exist here and there, maybe a little synthesis is in order.

    This idea might seem pedestrian, but it if one looks at how the approaches and methodologies at agencies such as the USEPA and USNRC started ‘simple’ and gradually became more informed over time, one might see a similar path in regard to climate change. Now is a good time to start and this is an inexpensive first step irrespective of any final actions taken.

    In a more practical vein, implementing such a program, QAing it, and thoroughly documenting it could be a good demonstration for the public, our largely uninformed leaders, and some of science brethern.

    KISS. KISS. KISS. Rome was not built in a day.

  12. Nice animation here of the arctic cyclone this year and the NH summer ice melt:
    http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/2012-seaicemin.html

  13. The government is taking over the insurance, right? I have not heard a single citizen — in these times of unemployment and government overreaching — and no one in the mainstream media acknowledge even for a moment all of the people in the private sector health insurance industry are not evil people even though all of them are being terminiated. It’s just like in the 80s when the industrial complex wass downsized overnight and tens of thousands of engineers, software designers, technicians, program control and business staff were just cashiered out overnight… and not so much as a fair well thee. This has turned out to be one sickph*ck society.

  14. A fan of *MORE* discourse

    The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants provides an outstandingly successful historical example of Judith’s topic “attribution of extreme events”.

    After all, death by cancer, or childhood autism syndrome, are good examples of “extreme events”, whose “attribution” is difficult, whose prevalance we (rightly) seek to mitigate, and regarding which our scientific understanding is never as complete as we would like, eh?

    So the parallels of the science of public-health attribution, to the science of climate-change attribution, are quite striking, eh?

    And the social, economic, and moral parallels, of public-health attribution to climate-change attribution, also are quite stiking, eh?

    So it is natural to ask: “How do public health experts solve the problem of scientific attribution of extreme medical events?”

    Full Text of the Stockholm Convention
        on Persistent Organic Pollutants

    The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from chemicals that remain intact in the environment for long periods, become widely distributed geographically, accumulate in the fatty tissue of humans and wildlife, and have adverse effects to human health or to the environment.

    Exposure to Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) can lead serious health effects including certain cancers, birth defects, dysfunctional immune and reproductive systems, greater susceptibility to disease and even diminished intelligence.

    Given their long range transport, no one government acting alone can protect is citizens or its environment from POPs.

    In response to this global problem, the Stockholm Convention, which was adopted in 2001 and entered into force in 2004, requires Parties to take measures to eliminate or reduce the release of POPs into the environment.

    The Convention is administered by the United Nations Environment Programme and is based in Geneva, Switzerland.

    Let’s adapt these tried-and-true methods of public-health science to climate-change! Specifically, let’s add CO2 to the treaty-regulated list of pollutants that exert globally adverse effects!

    After all, we can’t point to any one child, and say with perfect certainty-of-attribution “This child has birth defects and/or autism in consequence of persistent organic pollutants spread irresponsibly in the global environment.”

    But yah know, it’s still good that these toxins are regulated eh?

    That’s why CO2-regulation policies make excellent scientific, economic, social, and moral sense, eh?   :?:   :?:   :?:

    • A fan of *MORE* discourse

      Externalities associated to attribution-uncertainty are well-illustrated by two peppy theme songs of economic neodenialism: the Heptchlor and Endrin Songs   …

      Because we ordinary citizens and parents don’t know whether to :lol: versus :cry:, in the end we  …   :cry:   :lol:   :cry:   :lol:   :cry:

      • John Maynard Keynes

        ‘Thinking is centered around slow changes to our climate and how they will affect humans and the habitability of our planet. Yet this thinking is flawed: It ignores the well-established fact that Earth’s climate has changed rapidly in the past and could change rapidly in the future.’ WHOI

        It is more correct to be a climate change catastrophist in the sense of René Thom. Let’s see if we can put Chaos Theory in a context of physical climate processes. In the first instance it leads to little if any warming in the next decade ot three. Which makes apocryphal climate scenarios a little self defeating. If reducing carbon emissions is the art of the possible – there are approaches that make the art less possible.

        Chaos theory is not a theory of climate. It is a theory of complex and dynamic systems. It says that complex systems, such as climate models, exhibit certain behaviors. Chief amongst these is sensitive dependence, dragon-kings (equivalently noisy bifurcation) and slowing down. If this behavior is looked for and found in climate – as it has been quantitatively using network models with modern data for decadal climate shifts – then we can be sure that we are dealing with dynamical complexity.

        Thus we can look in the right place for answers but it tells us nothing at all about the processes in play. At this stage there are a few ideas about identifying dragon-kings and slowing down but nothing that has moved much beyond the conceptual and descriptive.

        Sensitive dependence happens when the value of control variables passes a critical threshold. The control variables are solar irradiation, orbital eccentricity or atmospheric composition. At some tipping point changes start propagating through the system with changes in cloud, snow, ice, biology, dust and ocean circulation. As this stage there are extreme fluctuations as the system components adjust and readjust to the rapidly changing state – this is when climate extremes happen such as the 1998 El Niño. It is followed by a period of damped oscillation as climate settles into the new state – called slowing down – until a new climate threshold is passed and climate shifts again.

        We can use terms such as phase space or strange attractors but they are simply terms for climate shifting from one more or less stable state to another. The different states have different characteristics – different temperatures, different rainfall patterns, more or less ice, changes in ecosystems, etc – and different climate averages which are not predictable beforehand. The shift may be benign or it may be utterly inimical to human societies.

      • Chief Hydrologist

        I can only laugh at myself. My little joke with the quote by JMK in response to tt’s crude attempt at something or other – well backfired. Never mind.

        In an open mind ideas evolve – people grow. It is a sign of strength and integrity – as JMK attests.

        FOMBS I can only wonder at. What is it that he seeks to achieve? The question I ask constantly is what if they are wrong – heaven forbid – and temperature don’t rise for a decade or three. Something that seems more than possible from the science? The only outcome I can see is that any impetus to decarbonisation disapears for a generation or two. But there is not a smidgeon of doubt in these people. It is a psychopathology – nothing less.

      • A fan of *MORE* discourse

        It’s not complicated, Chief Hydrologist!

        Good science is all about (1) asking good questions, and then (2) finding good answers.

        When it comes to “attribution of extreme events”, the good question is “How does public-health science address this challenge?”

        Asking this good question leads immediately to the common-sense answer “via the Stockholm Convention.

        Conversely, neodenialists cling as stubbornly to wrong-headed questions, as they do to willfully ignorant answers, and in doing so neodenialists seek to excape the responsibilities of knowledge.

        What is your next question, Chief Hydrologist?   :?:   :?:   :?:

      • Chief Hydrologist

        FOMBS – ‘Using a new measure of coupling strength, this update shows that these climate modes have recently synchronized, with synchronization peaking in the year 2001/02. This synchronization has been followed by an increase in coupling. This suggests that the climate system may well have shifted again, with a consequent break in the
        global mean temperature trend from the post 1976/77 warming to a new period (indeterminate length) of roughly constant global mean temperature.’ Swanson and Tsonis 2009

        As I say – I am a catastrophist in the sense of Rene Thom rather than a denialist. As an environmental scientist – I am certainly aware of the need to limit POP’s. But you are a twit of monumental proportions heading down a path of stupendous incomprehension in overweening arrogance, ignorance and smugness. That you are certain it is simple and that you have got it absolutlely right is a psychopathology of groupthink and it will end badly as these things always do.

        How do you progress? Review your assumptions and grow and learn. I am happy to be of assistance.

    • Fan,

      ONE: Cancer and autism don’t come in degrees of attribution. I’ve never heard anyone wonder “what percentage of my cancer is caused by XYZ chemical exposure and what percentage is natural?”

      TWO: assumes attribution is possible. As Nature plainly makes clear, it’s not possible. I’ll side with the pessimists and say it won’t be possible in the near term, and I’ll side with the field workers and say that it certainly won’t be possible unless the climate record can reliably be extended for several 10K’s of years at much finer spatial resolution than currently available. Finally, I’ll side with sanity and say the cost of achieving verifiable attribution will be far greater than the costs incurred by the percentage of extreme events attributable to GHG emissions (if any).

  15. Judith writes: “In agreement with the Nature editorial, I have written numerous previous points on why I think this exercise is pointless:”

    She’s too modest. She’ s also written on why its not quite so pointless:

    http://www.eas.gatech.edu/files/Maccracken_chapter.pdf

  16. Note that the proposed method, comparing a GW world with a nonGW world, assumes human attribution for all of the GW. That assumption is completely unjustified, making the method worthless. It is just a blame game.

  17. Regarding the RC curiosity argument, if curiosity is looking for speculative sensationalism then they might be right, but that is not science, hence no basis for funding the proposed research. It is a basis for not funding it.

  18. Pray what is a ‘neodenialist’ fan? And say, is there also a ‘neoCAGWist’? Jest askin’ because these labels, fan of *more* discourse, could be IMPORTANT in the great climate seesaw debate …i mean ‘discourse’..

  19. “It is true that many climate models are currently not fit for that purpose, but they can be improved.”

    Yes, that correctly summarises the present value of climate models. According to Dr Christy’s evidence to the US senate, there are 34 (different?) models vying for attention, but none could predict current temperature as accurately as we can measure it from satellites.

    Obviously climate prediction, which must precede extreme event prediction, is an intractable problem. So the IPCC should concentrate resources on getting one model right. This is an IPCC management problem that won’t go away. All the world needs is one good validated model, not 34 unvalidated ones.

    • +1.

      Its stoopid to call for action based on these failed modeling results and putting the world in economic jeopardy as it is now. Believing in CAGW is really stoopid.

  20. Pingback: Weekend thoughts…on hope and despair…and their attribution | Living on the Real World

  21. Pissant Progressive

    Judith,

    To claim that the public and media interest in this is pure ‘curiosity’ (e.g. is there life on Mars) because of the large media interest surrounding this issue, seems naive at best; this interest is almost certainly driven by the interest of issue advocates in using extreme events to argue for mitigation policies.

    I agree. I actually read the RC post before coming here and I was thinking something like this, but could not articulate it as well.

  22. Pingback: Blame game | Climate Etc.