Don’t Talk to Me About Global Warming– I’m Freezing My Buns Off

Seems that the world is in the grips of record low temperatures, both in the northern and southern hemispheres.

It’s interesting given a UK report that the world is warmer than it’s ever been. Truth is, the “rapid warming” of the planet has somewhat tapered off, and we’re not experiencing warming or cooling. Is it possible we reached the peak of a warm period and we’re slowly declining back to cooler temperatures?

Not according to computer models. Here’s the problem with computer models– they’re designed by people and they need to include variables from thousands of different sources to provide a projection. Rather than program something that will account for all the different variables, they make assumptions and, one of the biggest assumptions they make, is that external thermal input (aka, the sun) will remain constant throughout the lifespan of the simulation. That’s a huge assumption given that the sun provides nearly all of the radiative energy for the surface of our planet.

Let me put it in analogy format. It’s June 15th, and I want to create a computer model that can tell me what days in the summer I’ll be able to go to the beach and get tan. I’ll start the temperature increases from March 22 (first day of Spring) and plot temperature in the area from March 22 to June 15th and estimate temperatures through August 30th based upon the temperature increases through that period. I’ll also need variables on work days, people at the beach, supply of suntan oil, how often my friends will go to the beach, the daily temperature, solar output, the cloud cover, and chance of precipitation.

Now, the first four variables are easy to program. When we get to the second, we’ll use historical extrapolation from June 15th through March 22, and plot daily average temperatures from the temperature increase plot (according to that projection, it should be a balmy 115 F on August 30th!). Now, solar output has been relatively constant, on average, for 4.5 billion years, so we’ll make the assumption that the solar output is invariable. Additionally, cloud cover is hopelessly hard to predict, so we’ll assume it’s minor and toss it out. And precipitation? We’ll guess it rains 4 times every 30 days, adn plot accordingly.

There. Now I have my model of the future of this year in sunbathing. Will it work out? As everything we’ve done relies on averaging, the general map of sunbathing may be generally accurate. However, there are many assumptions that prove faulty.

The first and biggest is that solar output is constant. If you look at the sun, you’ll notice it’s a violent ball and erupting gas which bombards the solar system with particles, CME’s, and cosmic radiation. But for the models to work, they have to assume a constant sun, primarily because the sun’s activity is still largely a mystery to most people. We’re just now beginning to understand how the convection in the sun spawns the fusion process, and how hot and cold spots on the sun mess with the magnetic field. We know from observation there’s an 11-year activity cycle for the sun, and it’s tempting to say all the activity on the sun averages out over time. But each cycle is different. The current cycle we’re in is winding down, but the sun was incredibly active, hitting the Earth with a few whopper solar flares.

All of that solar activity could result in an increase in energy imparted to the planet, as well as a change in the solar wind, which, in turn, changes the overall impact of cosmic rays on cloud cover formation. Less cloud cover decreases solar reflectivity, which would increase the amount of energy striking the planet. That is another variable that’s assumed “constant”, mainly because clouds are so transient, they cannot truly be measured to give an “average”. Assigning any variable to cloud cover would be disingenuous as you’re making a total guess to cloud cover contributions, so the safe bet is to discard it.  Did you get that?  The safe bet is to totally toss a set of data that has a large contribution to the entire system!

So my model for sunbathing is relying on discarding one enormous set of information and ignoring the contribution of the biggest variable in the system!  So how well do you think my model is going to do simulating summer temperatures?  Sure, it’s going to be hot.  We know it’s going to be warm.  It’s summer, right?  And we know that it’s always hot in the summer.  Not a big guess about the temperatures.

As for climate modeling, people saying “it’s going to stay hot!” are the masters of the obvious.  The planet doesn’t change temperatures quickly.  It has built-in mechanisms to heat and cool slowly.  If the temperature is warm, odds are it will stay warm.  If the temperature is slowly increasing, it’s a safe bet to say it’s going  to still increase.  The key to the models is ignoring the one thing we know about planetary climate– it changes!  If the planet cools at all, even if it’s a 5-year dip followed by a rise– the climate models all fall apart!  Every model does not allow for a temperature correction!

So, if 2008-2012 show an overall decline in temperatures, the models will implode.  That’s the problem with predicting the future.  You may be wrong.

Just ask 400 scientists.


1 Response to “Don’t Talk to Me About Global Warming– I’m Freezing My Buns Off”

  1. 1 persimmon
    December 21, 2007 at 12:21 pm

    Constant solar output is not an assumption. It is a well established astronomical fact supported by volumes of geological evidence. Climate models have been developed, criticized, improved, refined and validated over the past 20 years. You seem blissfully unaware of all that has gone in to trying to understand what unprecedented CO2 concentrations might do to our planet.

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About Me

My name is Doc. Welcome to my blog. If you're visiting from another blog, add me to your blogroll (and I'll happily reciprocate). I have a Ph.D. in Chemistry and live in Wisconsin. If you have any questions, feel free to email me. My email is docattheautopsy at gmail. (No linking to deflate the incredible spam monsters).



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