Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sweating one's (fill in appropriate body part) off

Right now, in British Columbia, it's hotter than the right element of my barbeque. When the temperature difference in Victoria is a mere 2 degrees C lower than a typically hot Kamloops, things are cooking. In fact, inland Vancouver Island is actually hotter at the time of writing than the BC southern interior.

Not that such a thing indicates anything truly abnormal. Meteorologically, this is a spot condition brought on by the existence of a strong high pressure ridge. Using this "heat wave" (by definition it doesn't yet qualify) as evidence of anything except a short term met anomaly would be wrong and, more extensively, dishonest.

If I were to engage in the typical head-in-the-sand, dumb-ass Rex Murphy approach, I could blast away that the ability to grease the sidewalk and fry an egg, in a place where that would usually be impossible, is proof of global warming. It isn't.

Meteorology differs from climatology in a number of different ways but, since I am rather involved in both, an easy demonstration is to look at the length of forecast.

To a meteorologist five days is a long time and the sustainability of a long-range forecast is difficult. Too much changes too fast to achieve a high level of accuracy over that "long term".

To a climatologist, three months is a very short time. Too short a time, in fact, on which to base any assumptions or arrive at any conclusions. Three years is better and a solid gauge is three centuries of data from which one might be able to forecast the next 20 years. That would be an ideal situation - if we could afford the time. The truth is, in terms of good data and verification of climate models, we have about 20 years worth of model hindcasting with which to make forecasts.

Stupidity enters the picture when some climate denier (self-labelled "skeptics") puts a finger on any given point of a climate model result and says "That didn't happen." True enough, but that's a "user" view of a weather forecast. Take a step back and look at the longer model result and the accuracy is remarkable. Further, when one of these clowns points at a model forecast "spike" event which occured either later or sooner than forecast they commit a heinous sin - they ignore the obvious trend which is a consistent rise in global temperature and the fact that, while the model might have gotten the precise date wrong, the event actually did occur.

This video, produced by Peter Sinclair provides information on the how and when of one particular model.

The problem of the swatting off of climate deniers is further exacerbated by their pointing at one portion of a larger event. The latest one being that "Arctic ice is increasing; not decreasing". That's cherry-picking of the highest order. The truth is quite different and the scientists explain.

Things become even more egregious when complete knobs like Mark Steyn enter the debate. Instead of anything resembling research or, for that matter, the lay reading of the research of others, Steyn offers this bit of dross.
Lowell Ponte (who I believe is an expert climatologist and, therefore, should have been heeded) wrote his bestseller, The Cooling: Has the new ice age already begun? Can we survive?
Yeah, well, as Paul Wells will happily point out, Steyn is "fact challenged" on almost any subject you want to name. But to suggest Lowell Ponte is an "expert climatologist" is a demonstration of where Steyn belongs when it comes to discussions on anthropogenic induced global warming: back in school. Lowell Ponte has never published anything scientific in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. Anything. That's because he's not a scientist. His formal education is in English and Journalism with an equivalent in International Relations. For Steyn to suggest otherwise is either just plain dishonest or, (and I tend towards this), he's just plain too stupid and too lazy to actually check facts.

Steyn then goes on to quote University of Adelaide professor, Ian Pilmer. That's nice. I like Pilmer, in an abstract sort of way. He's probably an excellent geologist. His contribution to climate change research is considerably less collaborative than those closer to the coal face and his criticism of climate models brought a sharp rebuke from the scientific community at large. His suggestion that natural forces were not included in models is quite frankly not true. The first video above demonstrates that.

Enough of Steyn though. The prince of the deniers is Anthony Watts who created his surfacestations survey. What Watt's never tells you is that his supposedly damning survey actually has climate collection data from surface stations falling within the NOAA margin of error. A video was produced which essentially annihilated Watts' digital-camera theory and lo-and-behold, Watts executes a DMCA take-down.

As this diarist points out:
Well, the video must have been really on target -- it stung Anthony Watts so badly that he initiated a DMCA "takedown" action and got the "Watts Up With Watts" video removed from youtube.com!
That's an assumption, but one can see how it is easily made.

So, no, this little spell of hot weather doesn't prove anything... except that it's hot at the moment. This, however, is something I watch closely. And despite the warped station data mythology issued by the likes of Watts, the data collection is carried out by satellites and ocean buoys. (I'm sure someone will produce a picture of an air conditioner exhausting onto a few of those eventually.)

Still, it should be fun to sit in the local Tim Horton's and listen to all the ball-cap and mullet festooned idiots who were pointing at last winter's snowfall as proof of global cooling attempt to explain why, on the northwest sea coast, the air conditioning can't keep up with the heat.

A little point: All these journalists and out-of-field contributors to the community of vocal deniers of scientific research need to get a definition straight. They are climate deniers - not skeptics. I am a skeptic. I expect several points of proof before I will allow myself to be sent down a road, and I always accept that I may encounter a dead end - when another bona fide researcher produces it. Attempting to gentrify your position only serves to strengthen mine given that you think denying the effects of global warming is somehow shameful. Wear it with pride and continue to believe - even if your heroes knew better and were intentionally lying to you.

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