Discover more from Henry’s Substack
Climate computer-models: Obviously invalid
Climate-change crisis? Facts say ‘no’
The Industrial Revolution of the middle of the 19th century was followed by a couple of decades of warming temperatures, followed by about three decades of falling temperatures, followed by three decades of warming and then another three decades or so of cooling; whereupon warming started again during the late 1970s.
That sequence, that cycling, is undisputed.
An obvious conclusion is that some forces make for cooling while others make for warming; and for periods lasting something like 3 decades, one set of forces can temporarily overwhelm the other.
Any valid model of reality must obviously incorporate the influence of both sets of forces. But the computer models on which current official statements are based consider only the most recent warming period and attempt to project into the future; but they do not consider the potential cooling influences that are known, from data covering more than a century, to be quite likely at some time to overwhelm the warming influences. Those models are obviously inadequate in considering only the assumed influence of increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide and not the forces responsible for the two three-decades-long cooling periods earlier in the 20th century even while CO2 levels were rising.
To inspire the slightest confidence that a model mimics reality even approximately, calculations based on that model should show the several cycles of cooling and warming during the 20th century and how those relate to the appearance or disappearance of substances acting as greenhouse gases.
No such model yet exists.
It would not be appropriate, though, to blame the computer experts for that lack. In order to model the reality of global climate, one would have to know all the forces, and their variation over time, that influence temperature. That might begin with the amount of energy coming from the Sun and its varying penetration through different levels of the atmosphere; and in reverse, the amounts of radiation absorbed from the energy reflected or emitted from the surface. Those are not the same at different places on Earth, so the models would need to include individual cells of not too large size for every location on Earth; and also for every level within the atmosphere at each of those places, because composition of the air, and temperature, vary greatly with altitude. But nothing is static in any of those innumerable ‘cells’, which interact with one another and whose contents vary all the time. So it would also be necessary to consider the influence of movements within the atmosphere, winds both horizontal and vertical. And of course one could not ignore variations in humidity, since water vapor is a very powerful greenhouse gas (“Water vapor . . . accounts for more than 90 percent of the atmosphere’s ability to intercept heat” (Koonin, 2021: 50–51); and since humidity and temperature are related, one would need to incorporate that feedback loop in the calculations.
I could continue with other things needing to be taken into account, for example the absorption of carbon dioxide in the ocean, its incorporation into seashells, as well as some reverse liberation of carbon dioxide if waters become acidified. There are also chemical reactions within the atmosphere that might contribute to energy uptake or release of substances increasing or decreasing the greenhouse effect.
In other words: The number of variables to be taken into account, and the numbers of interactions between them, are beyond astronomical. Even if all the variables could be specified and quantified, even if all the chemical and physical reactions were known and could be quantified, it would be well beyond the capabilities of any conceivable supercomputer to generate a convincingly realistic model of the Earth’s atmosphere. As Pilkey and Pilkey-Jarvis (2007) point out, the environment is simply too complicated for us to model or simulate even approximately.
That does not, however, make it impossible to suggest plausible future directions for global temperature; it just means that projections should be based on empirical data, of which there is a great deal. The most obvious immediate prediction would be to expect that the warming which began in the late 1970s would last no more than three or four decades, to be followed by a period of cooling for a similar period.
Instead of such an evidence-based prediction, official sources continue to disseminate statements about potentially disastrous further warming, based solely on computer models that are clearly wrong. Those dire warnings are amplified by the mass media, so that the conventional wisdom now includes such shibboleths as that climate-change is causing more frequent and more extraordinary “extreme weather” weather events.
But that is simply not what the actual data reveal; page nos. in the following refer to Koonin (2021): “temperature extremes in the contiguous US have become less common and somewhat milder since the late nineteenth century,” but official reports claim the very opposite, that temperature records in the US are becoming more frequent (p. 107); “heat waves in the US are now no more common [italics in original] than they were in 1900 . . . the warmest temperatures in the US have not risen in the past 50 years. When I tell people this, most are incredulous. . . . and some get downright hostile” (Koonin, p. 1). “Observations extending back over a century indicate that most types of extreme weather events don’t show any significant change — and some such events have actually become less common or severe” (p. 97). An apparent increase in the number of annual tornadoes is most likely owing to steadily increasing ability to observe weak tornadoes that would have failed to be recorded in the many decades before weather radar came into wide use (p. 122 ff.); “if anything, US tornadoes have become more benign as the globe has warmed over the past seventy-five years” (p. 126). “The coldest temperatures . . . [are] rising more rapidly than the warmest temperatures — the climate is getting milder as the globe is getting warmer” (p. 36). “[T]he science says that most extreme weather events show no long-term trends that can be attributed to human influences on the climate” (p. 99). Human influences currently amount to only 1% of the energy that flows through the climate system (p. 58).
Koonin cites sources that include the most “official”, namely, from the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
The same demonstration, that actual data do not show any increase in frequency or severity of “extreme” weather events, is given in Easterbrook (2016: pt. III); for example, 1930-39 was (up to at least 2019) the hottest decade in the USA (p. 105); extreme dry or wet episodes are no more frequent now than in the earlier parts of the 20th century (p. 110); hurricane landfalls are no more frequent (p. 112), nor are violent tornadoes (p. 113).
In any case, there is no simple or direct connection between weather and climate. Weather is local and temporary, whereas climate describes large regions, or the whole Earth, and does not vary drastically over any short periods of time. A discussion of climate change (Royal Society, 2014) jointly by the National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society of London acknowledges that cooling or warming of a decade or two cannot be extrapolated into long-term trends; yet the mass media take even any single event of extreme weather as supposed evidence of long-term climate change — an iconic example of disinformation, repeated endless times, daily, globally.
Weather forecasting has become remarkably accurate over periods of a few days as copious data are continually obtained from satellites and by other means; weather forecasts are solidly empirical. Official projections about climate, on the other hand, are based on the outputs of computer models that cannot be valid.
It is of prime importance to note that Koonin cites from the technical data in the IPCC reports, because the Executive Summaries in those reports “present summary ‘spin’ inconsistent with their own findings” (p. 112).
That is quite characteristic of official reports in general: they are not scientific publications, they are not even peer-reviewed, and their purpose is not the dissemination of truth but solely to serve the issuing institution’s interests — foremost, the interests of the institution’s leaders (Bauer, 2012: ch. 8).
There are innumerable books, articles, and websites taking exception to the official view of an imminent danger of human-caused climate change. I have chosen to quote so extensively from Koonin (2021) because it is quite up to date; because the statements in it are scrupulously documented from the mainstream official literature; because the author strives very hard to be even-handed; and because the author’s credentials are impeccable: Pioneering work in computer modeling and stints of several years working on alternative-energy matters in a fossil-fuel company and then in the Obama Administration.
Why then has the official, global, stance continued for decades to be so ill-founded? For reasons I gave in an earlier post (How many official ‘science’-based beliefs are wrong?, 19 July):
1. The mainstream consensus is effectively an hegemony
2. The general public and the policy makers do not realize how uncertain is the basis for the mainstream consensus
3. Anyone who seeks to do research relating to climate must accept the mainstream consensus
4. The executive summaries of official reports are not an unbiased summary of the technical sections of the reports
5. Media reporting simply parrots official statements; there is no investigative journalism
6. Dissenting voices are able to get published only in politically right-wing outlets, whereby the mass media are able to insinuate unreliability just by referring to that fact.
Bauer, H. H. (2012). Dogmatism in Science and Medicine: How Dominant Theories Monopolize Research and Stifle the Search for Truth. McFarland.
Easterbrook, D. (ed.) (2016). Evidence-Based Climate Science. Elsevier (2nd ed.; 1st ed. was 2011).
Koonin, S. (2021). Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why It Matters. BenBella Books.
Pilkey, O. H. & Pilkey-Jarvis, L. (2007). Useless Arithmetic: Why Environmental Scientists Can’t Predict the Future. Columbia University Press.
Royal Society (2014). Climate Change: Evidence & Causes — An overview from the Royal Society and the US National Academy of Sciences. National Academies Press.