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Understanding climate science and the weather


6:23 pm - January 23rd 2011

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contribution by Tim Fenton

In support of his urging that people should have an intelligent position on the subject of economics, J K Galbraith explained that not to do so effectively ceded power in that subject area to those who did take an intelligent position, or who claimed so to do. A recently controversial subject area where I would urge anyone to take an intelligent position – for the same reason – is in the area of weather and climate.

On climate, the best attitude to take for anyone who really wants to gen up is to be thoroughly and genuinely sceptical: that means to be in “show me” mode (the denial lobby aren’t really sceptical, as they have already made their minds up).

By all means check out the antis, but also some researched and reasoned Q&A.

Our own National Environmental Research Council (NERC) Climate change challenge is a good place to start. In the USA, the OSS Foundation hosts a Myths v Facts area.

Brian Angliss has also assembled a list of myths, and explains why that is all they are. And the people at Real Climate have a host of articles that also explain why science is right and the antis are wrong – often wilfully so.

Basically, you can be sure that whenever a pundit or hack sounds off on air or in the press in forthright condemnation of climate change science, the arguments they make have already been comprehensively debunked, and that at least one of the resources linked above will explain why those pundits and hacks are wrong. So what of the idea that “it’s cold therefore there’s no global warming”?

Sadly, there is no link between the ability to sound off on air or in print, and the knowledge that transient weather patterns do not disprove climate science, although some pundits do take an intelligent position. The basics on how to usefully interpret those weather patterns are not difficult to learn, and, again, I would urge people to check them out.

For those of us in the UK, the behaviour of the Atlantic Jet Stream, and its influence on weather patterns, are a crucially important part of understanding that weather. I posted on the subject recently, and linked to a site which gives free and regularly updated Jet Stream forecasts. At present, this shows why we have a quiet period of weather across the UK.

And the Met Office site lets you see the development and movement of weather systems on its synoptic chart (right now it looks like rain from the NW during Tuesday next).

Monitoring this chart over time also demonstrates why exact forecasting for a country placed between ocean and landmass is not always easy.

It’s not difficult to get knowledgeable on climate and weather. And by doing so, you take the power of making decisions on those subjects into your own hands.

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Reader comments


1. Thomas Hobbes

“On climate, the best attitude to take for anyone who really wants to gen up is to be thoroughly and genuinely sceptical: that means to be in “show me” mode”

You started so well

“(the denial lobby aren’t really sceptical, as they have already made their minds up).”

And then ruined it all immediately.

And the people at Real Climate have a host of articles that also explain why science is right and the antis are wrong – often wilfully so.

Come on, Tim, that’s as balanced as an elephant on a blancmange. “Science” is an enterprise that “scientists” try to undertake. The two aren’t indistinguishable as, naturally, the scientists may depart from the science.

Come on, Tim, that’s as balanced as an elephant on a blancmange.

So we should have balance for the sake of it, even if you can’t disprove any of the science on there?

[deleted]

Here come the trolls (whoa, whoa!)
Here come the trolls…

So we should have balance for the sake of it, even if you can’t disprove any of the science on there?

No: rather, one shouldn’t employ non sequiturs that beg the question.

Here we go again, the usual free market, private property loving suspects come on to tell the owner of this site what he should write.

Priceless.

Tim,

Good links. It is also worth mentioning Deltoid where Tim Lambert et al go out of their way to debunk the more egregious stuff. As it’s an Australian site there is quite a lot of point that are immediately relevant.

http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/

@1, @2, @6

There is nothing more frightening to the antis than the thought that ordinary people might begin to become knowledgeable on this issue, and be able to take an intelligent position on it.

Hence the all too predictable “you ruined it”, “not balanced”, and “non sequitor”. All the better to cause distraction and avoid the issue.

@ Tim Fenton

Real Climate is a heavily biased website, run by people heavily involved and promoted by the pro-AGW camp. They refuse to answer any criticism of their site, even when the science “fact” they put on their site has been seriously questioned.

They are hardly unbiased….

Don’t forget http://www.skepticalscience.com/ also v good for stats and figures.

Tim –

Right! Well, I sure am glad that you’re so “sceptical” you’re willing to attribute views to people that they’ve never held, propounded or, as far as I know, implied. Most Humerous.

“In support of his urging that people should have an intelligent position on the subject of economics, J K Galbraith explained that not to do so effectively ceded power in that subject area to those who did take an intelligent position, or who claimed so to do. A recently controversial subject area where I would urge anyone to take an intelligent position – for the same reason – is in the area of weather and climate. ”

Absolutely: and we should go further too. Everyone should become informed on hte subject of the economics of what we should do about climate change.

Why, I’ve even written a whole book on the subject. We want and need more economic growth, more globalisation and more markets…..that’s how to deal with the very real problem of climate change.

@10

No, *your personal opinion* is that Real Climate is “heavily biased”.

If I go to that particular link, and click [say] “Climate Change Disinformation”, there are a number of questions and adverse opinions in the comments. These are then addressed. Your assertion that they “refuse to answer any criticism” is drivel, so no change there, then.

BenSix @12, dincha know that criticism of something entails support for some other thing?

Real Climate is run by actual scientists doing actual science – they present the science behind AGW as they see it and from their perspective the established science overwhelmingly supports the conclusion that the earth is warming, that we are causing it and it is likely to be a big problem.
The fact that they reach a particular conclusion which points in one particular direction does not in itself constitute “bias”. If it does then you would have to make the same accusation against scientists such as Christy and Spencer who make “sceptical” arguments against AGW. If you want to demonstrate “bias” then you have to show that they are wilfully misrepresenting the scientific basis for AGW in order to skew their argument.

@2 Ben Six

If scientists spend too much time, “departing from the science” and publishing their resulting efforts, they pretty quickly see their careers departing too.

News for both sides of the debate:

Both sides have scientists doing science (the question is often whether it is done well or badly). Science does not normally produce a single neat answer after all, and if you expect it to do so you do not understand science (or at least have probably got no further than GCSE science where there are neat answers). It is not about being scientific against anti-scientific, but about what the science says.

Incidentally, like Tim F and Tim W, I’d suggest it would be good if ordinary people could get more educated. Then we could stop relying on crap such as 95% of climate scientists believe in man-made global warming (I think that derives from a pressure group and a survey of about 60 scientists) or that a particular bit of whether tells us anything, and start discussing the evidence, which I am happy to admit can go both ways (and is as far as I am concerned inconclusive but if anything not strongly indicative of man-made warming (actual warming has happened, of that I’m pretty happy)).

As to the range of sources, you cite some very weak defences. For example, the Brian Angliss defences were all written in 2007 and refer to the IPCC quite frequently, when in the last three years science has moved on and several key features of the IPCC report have now been questioned in the light of new theories and discoveries (and also in light of the fact that some of the statistical models are dubious). Realclimate is better in terms of being up-to-date, but they do ignore papers and findings which challenge their beliefs – more worringly for a blog, they censor comments which question postings (Sunny I’m sure has been tempted enough, but it is hardly indicative of an open mind to give in to that temptation).

@ Tim Worstall

We want and need more economic growth, more globalisation and more markets…..that’s how to deal with the very real problem of climate change.

We want sustainable economic growth, a global approach to weaning countries off fossil fuels and plenty more regulation and tax.

That’s the only way Man Made Global Warming is going to be tackled.

19. Watchman

the Brian Angliss defences were all written in 2007 and refer to the IPCC quite frequently, when in the last three years science has moved on and several key features of the IPCC report have now been questioned in the light of new theories and discoveries (and also in light of the fact that some of the statistical models are dubious).

Utterly – probably deliberately – misleading.

“We want sustainable economic growth,”

Sure: and to get that we need to be getting growth coming from increases in total factor productivity (making more with the same resources, or making the same with fewer) not juist quantitative growth. The only way we’ve so far found to produce that sort of growth is in a market based economic system.

And a tax, certainly, one on emissions/carbon, but if you’ve got that then you don’t need the regulations as well.

Watchman: the survey of scientists isn’t quite as you describe it. It was a survey of 3,146 geoscientists (not 80). It was conducted by the University of Illinois (not a pressure group). It found that 90% of all scientists surveyed agreed that the climate is warming, and 82% agreed that this was affected by human activity. Within the sample, 97% of climatologists agreed that AGW is happening. The most ‘sceptical’ group was petroleum geologists (47% agreed that AGW is happening. AHAHAHAHA look at that.)

“Then we could stop relying on crap such as 95% of climate scientists believe in man-made global warming (I think that derives from a pressure group and a survey of about 60 scientists)”

Typically, the self declared “sceptic” can’t even be bothered to apply the teeniest amount of scepticism and fact check their own claims. Rowan is correct and you are consciously or unwittingly spreading lies. More important than the surveys is the volume of peer-reviewed articles that support AGW. Go to Skeptic Sciecne and subscribe to their daily emails listing climate articles. You will find out just how few peer reviewed scientific papers support the contrarian case.

I do hope you enjoyed Sir Paul Nurse on Horizon on Monday night. I certainly did.

“Realclimate is better in terms of being up-to-date, but they do ignore papers and findings which challenge their beliefs…”

Examples please.

“– more worringly for a blog, they censor comments which question postings…”

They censor posts that are abusive. Posts that are just inane, stupid, or crazy now go to the Bore Hole (previously they would have been moderated out for being inane, stupid or crazy):

http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/category/the-bore-hole/

Take a look at the Bore Hole and tell us what scientific insights you find.


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