EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

March 18, 2014

Column: Why we argue climate change: 'Settled science' isn't necessarily so

(Continued)

One avenue of inquiry used to understand a system that scientists and engineers in many fields already employ is computer simulation. If a system’s important details can be represented properly in a computer model, then predictions can be accurate and therefore valuable. I dare say my local supermarket can predict with great skill what I am going to buy thanks to the information gathering system now utilized and my boring eating habits. Unfortunately, even the most advanced set of climate model simulations does not deliver much in the way of certainty.

For example, I analyzed the tropical atmospheric temperature change in 102 of the latest climate model simulations covering the past 35 years. The temperature of this region is a key target-variable because it is tied directly to the response to extra greenhouse gases in models. If greenhouse gases are warming the Earth, this is the first place to look.

In a rather disconcerting result, I found all 102 model runs overshot the actual temperature change on average by a factor of three. Not only does this tell us we don’t have a good grasp on the way climate varies, but the fact all simulations overcooked the atmosphere means there is probably a warm bias built into the basic theory _ the same theory that we’ve been told is “settled science.” I don’t know about you, but to me, being off by a factor of three doesn’t qualify as “settled.”

As important as models can be for problems like this, it is clear we have a long way to go. And, it is troubling to realize that current policy is being based on these computer models, none of which has been validated by a formalized, independent Red Team analysis. (Congress, EPA: Are you listening?)

Others might look to certain climate anomalies and convince themselves humans are the cause. I often hear claims that extreme weather is getting worse. Now, here we do have direct evidence to check. Whether it’s tornadoes (no change over the past 60 years), hurricanes (no changes over the past 120 years), or western U.S. droughts and heat waves (not as bad as they were during the past 1,000 years), the evidence doesn’t support those claims. So, we argue.

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