The Cloudy Climate Science Consensus is Based on Simplified Models of our Complex Atmosphere

Yesterday's post talked about the limitations of consensus in science. As a friend pointed out this morning my logic in it was a bit cloudy. Cloudy is actually a really good representation of the whole issue as well as one of the major uncertainties involved in climate science's attempts to tease out reliable projections from such an impossibly complex system as our atmosphere.

Further clouding yesterday's topic is the fact that there are two different types of science being discussed in the post.  One is the type of science that is a repeatable experiment with controls and isolated materials/effects. The second was scientific modeling where, like the earth's atmosphere, there's only one so there can be no controls - no separate planet identical planet that's left untouched - and no possible isolation of effects/materials.

The second type, modeling, is where the climate change consensus comes into play because there are no definitive/repeatable results to be had. In modeling complex systems, whether the economy, air flow over planes/cars or especially the atmosphere, there are so many interdependent variables all highly sensitive to initial condition who's values are all derived from other variables no one answer is achievable. The climate science consensus depends on our attempts to describe the highly complicated real world with simple models

As Hendrik Tennekes, retired Director of Research, Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, says, "Science may be described as the art of systematic oversimplification, the art of discerning what we may with advantage omit. From this perspective, those that advocate the idea that the response of the real climate is adequately represented in climate models have an obligation to prove that they have not overlooked a single nonlinear, possibly chaotic feedback mechanism [the black swan effect-ed.] that Nature itself employs." Which of course is impossible

Consequently all climate models return uncertain results. There are different types of climate model, each has different input parameters who's values are derived from other variables. Each of these parameters is hotly debated in great detail by climatologists, meteorologists, physicists, chemists, astrophysicists, geologists and other specialists in each area. The best site IMO to follow the arguments of the specialists is world famous meteorologist Judith Curry's Climate Etc.

Another, less technical article that gives excellent overall analysis of model uncertainty issues as well as the different types of climate models and their parameters is t 'Climate science: A sensitive matter'. In the next few posts The Mud Report will try to explain the uncertain consensus among 97% of climate scientists who are 66% certain that the results from the combined models are accurate. Then go on to explain that many of the opponents of that 'consensus' agree with the results that lie outside that 66% range [both above and below] for valid reasons.

We'll start tomorrow with Al Gore's famous and oversimplified statement before congress back in 1992 that "the science is settled" and explain that he was right because all the way back in 1862 John Tyndall discovered in his laboratory that certain gases, including water vapor and carbon dioxide (CO2), are opaque to heat rays and that such gases high in the air help keep our planet warm by interfering with escaping radiation. But that the atmosphere's 'sensitivity' to those gases and the complex interactions in our atmosphere are far from certain.