Common Sense and The Perils of Predictions

Guest essay by Michael R. Smith, C.C.M.

PredictionsForDisaster

Forbes, “Absolute Return” column, April 21, 2008, page 246:

Here’s another name you should own, Freddie Mac ($29 per share)Freddie is cheap at 1.1 times book [value].

Less than five months later, Freddie Mac’s stock was worth 25¢ per share, a loss of 99%.  It has since recovered to 70¢ per share, so the loss is “only” 97.6%.

A forecast of a stock of a single company five months into the future seems easy.  The company had government backing (federally sponsored corporation).  What could go wrong?

Yet, the forecast published by Forbes, short of an outright bankruptcy, could not have been more inaccurate.  It is worth examining how a situation that seemed rock solid (government-backed securities!) became catastrophic to see if there are any lessons that might apply to the atmospheric sciences.

The assumptions that Freddie Mac (and other financial stocks) were low risk was primarily a result of computer models.  As one expert stated (using pseudonym at http://blogs.zdnet.com/Murphy/?p=1265 ),

The problem is inherently complex – imagine being asked to value a portfolio of 10,000 residential mortgages issued to a total of something like 17,652 individuals. Each mortgage balances some issue amount against some payment stream; each has had zero or more payments recorded against it, each has an initial interest rate; an interest computation method; zero or more early payment opportunities; some mention of late or missed payment penalties and conditions, and an expiry, renegotiation, or call date.

While I do not doubt that is “complex,” the level of complexity is miniscule when compared to the complexity of the earth-atmosphere-ocean system and their interactions. Yet, faith in these model valuations led to a prediction that Freddie Mac stock was “cheap” when a meltdown of the financial system, largely due to the incorrect valuations and risk estimates by computer models, was less than 180 days away.

After the meltdown occurred, a second Forbes article stated, “All existing models for calculating risk, he [Nassim Taleb] says, should be thrown out because they underestimate extreme price swings. ‘The track record of economists in predicting events is monstrously bad,’ he says.”  (February 2, 2009, p. 21)  Of course, we learn this after our home values and values of our 401K’s are wrecked.

Given the failure of these models to predict the implosion six months hence, would you invest the remainder of your 401K on what the same model predicts for the next six years or, if you are in your 20’s, what it predicts for sixty?  I don’t know what your answer might be, but common sense would indicate applying the forecasts from these models to your portfolio with extreme caution.

June 1, 2009, we learned from The New York Times that “Models’ Projections for Flu Miss Mark by Wide Margin.”  The model predicted, according to the Times, “by the end of May, there would only be 2,000 to 2,500 cases in the United States…  On May 15, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated there were upwards of 100,000 cases in the country…”

Just six months earlier, the models’ predictive capability were touted because of real time input from Google (www.cidrap.umn.edu/cidrap/content/influenza/panflu/news/nov1308google-jw.html ).  Now, the flu has been declared a “Pandemic” by the World Health Organization (/www.pandemicflu.gov/ ) in spite of the modest number of cases projected to be in existence by June, 2009, by the models. Another critical short-term modeling failure.

Question:  If the model predicts low risk for the next six months, would you decide to forego a flu shot?  Again, your answer might be different, but common sense would dictate getting the shot.

How do these examples relate to climate modeling and policy?

We currently have climate models that have missed the fact that atmospheric temperatures peaked 11 years ago and that oceanic heat content has, at best, failed to increase. See: http://climatesci.org/2009/03/04/large-uncertainty-in-the-simulation-of-the-global-average-surface-temperature-by-the-ipcc-models-a-study-reported-on-the-weblog-the-blackboard/ , http://climatesci.org/2009/02/09/update-on-a-comparison-of-upper-ocean-heat-content-changes-with-the-giss-model-predictions/ , among many others.

Given the inadequate performance of these models over the last 5 to 10 years, why do we believe we can make accurate, highly specific forecasts 50 to 100 years in the future? Is it because we are so close to the problem we are blinded to the dangers like the economists who did not see the meltdown coming?

Almost no one familiar with meteorology or climate models would disagree that they are more complex than the mortgage valuation or influenza prediction models.  The basic processes of the earth-ocean-atmosphere are incompletely understood and we barely understand many of their interactions.

We also know that forecasting the weather beyond five days is dicey at best.  Then why are we making 29,000-day weather forecasts? Don’t think we are doing that?  Consider the following:

“By the period 2080-2099, devastating heat waves of the kind that killed more than 700 people in Chicago in 1995 will occur three times per year.”  (USCCP, p. 119, citation below)

That is a weather forecast – a forecast of specific meteorological conditions at a specific time and place.  The document is filled with similar predictions, along with recommendations based on those predictions.

We are sometimes told that climate forecasts can be made because the “weather” errors will be cancelled out because they are “random.”  Here is what was said about the mortgage computer models,

Now, because you can predict roughly the probable range for most of these assumptions but not the actual values the variables involved will have for each of the time periods you have to consider, what you do is write a monte carlo simulation in which you try tens of thousands of value combinations and plot the results to see what, on average expectations, the portfolio might be worth.

Notice, that at this point even something as large as 0.0005% error in the outcome would be completely insignificant – so randomization error should have no effect, right?  (op. sit.)

It was believed by most the mortgage instruments were safe because the errors (i.e., a higher default rate of subprime lenders) would cancel out (because the risks were spread) and because, if desired, default insurance could be purchased from institutions like AIG.  Of course, AIG used similar models to determine its risk.  We just learned how well that worked.

In spite of these spectacular failures of less complex computer modeling in economics and public health, the atmospheric sciences seem to be making similar miscalculations. If your common sense would lead you to disregard these models’ forecasts when planning your portfolio and whether you get a flu shot, I would suggest we adopt a much more modest approach to the use of climate models. While they are useful research tools, the numerous uncertainties (cloud feedback, particulates, volcanic ash, the current quiet sun, etc.) are so great we cannot claim to have forecast skill decades into the future.

Otherwise, when I read, during a period of falling temperatures and ocean heat content,“Global warming is unequivocal,”* I hear, “Freddie Mac is cheap.”

Michael R. Smith is CEO of WeatherData Services, Inc., An AccuWeather Company, and a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society.  This weblog represents his personal opinion. AccuWeather’s Global Warming Blog can be accessed at: http://global-warming.accuweather.com/ .

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Jack Hughes

Thanks, Michael.
Its a good analogy with the financial systems. In the finance world we know ALL the physics, and ALL the maths. We know the actors involved and we know the range of possible actions. Yet we still get it totally wrong.
We can make similar parallels with the Kyoto / Copenhagen ideas. The idea that we can have a world committee that will stop the world’s climate from ever changing for the rest of time. Why not start off with a much simpler project like world peace ?

timetochooseagain

Predicting is hard. But some have more foresight than others. Trouble is, you never know who is making the best prediction until after the fact. And since they tend to be “flexible” predictions are always far removed from testable hypotheses. And given the obvious tendency of prophets to fail, it is puzzling that so many believe them…

observer

O/T. Space site has sunspots 12 but says on picture caption that sun is blank i.e.: spotless. What’s up with that?

Every model that works, works until it doesn’t. What separates the working models from the failed models is the range of conditions that went in to building it and the understanding of the relationships among the contributors. Any chaos-rich system, be it climate, finance, organization or health, can be properly modeled only by those who approach their topic with extreme humility. Truth is not only stranger than fiction, it is far stranger than recent history.
Because so much data became available with the advent of satellite measurements in 1979, near the end of the mid-century cooling trend that had climatology students like me writing papers on the coming ice age, I believe that many modelers have put too much credence into the available rich satellite data instead of the existing but less-available contemporary accounts of temperature from non-satellite sources. The only things that started in 1979 (besides maybe Rickie Lee Jones “Chuck E’s in Love”) were satellite measurements of temperature and ice extent. How many references do we read to “Highest Ever” (temperature) or “Lowest Ever” (ice extent) as if history began with the new data?
Financial models fail when the real world behaves in ways that are beyond what the model anticipated. Massive mortgage defaults were never allowed for in the financial system. What has not been allowed for in GCMs?

Leon Brozyna

I predict that, at the end of their lives, everyone will die. Beyond that, everything about the future is speculative wishing and hoping, whether arrived at via séance or supercomputer (though the séance is cheaper).

BarryW

Don’t forget we have all ready run out of natural resources (Club of Rome). The Kuwaiti oil fires from Desert Storm will prove Nuclear Winter models are correct. Soviet style Marxist economies are superior to capitalism and will never fail. And so it goes…

crosspatch

Well, to be fair, the models were assuming “normal” market conditions. What we had was a system greatly skewed by government manipulation. How would climate models hold up in the face of some sort of intentional manipulation by human beings?
In the financial markets where had a situation where Congress mandated that Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have at least 50% of their loans with the “underprivileged”. This forced them into a situation where they were forcing the loan originators into absolute lunacy in order to get the quotas met. Washington Mutual, for example, with their “Power Of YES” program had given up even doing income verification. If you could walk into the branch, you got a loan. It eventually became almost a sort of ponzi scheme where bringing all these people into the housing market inflated demand for housing which inflated prices. As prices rose, the resulting equity in the loans acted to lessen the “risk” in the models because what was a 100% “no down payment, interest only” loan now had 15% or 20% equity.
Then things REALLY started going stupid. They started giving “reverse amortization” loans. These are where you not only don’t pay anything on the principal of the loan, you don’t even pay all the due interest. The idea being that appreciation equity would outpace the growth in the balance due to accumulated unpaid equity. So you get a 6% loan but pay only 4% interest with the other 2% going onto the loan balance. As long as the property appreciated at greater than 2% a year, everybody wins. AND they were betting on property values increasing forever. And thanks to the Sarbanes/Oxley “mark to market” requirements, when values went up on a new home sale, the lenders could mark up the value of ALL their loans in that market. But that turned out to be a double-edged sword.
Then two things happened. First they reached the bottom of the barrel. There were fewer and fewer people to give loans to. Everyone that wanted one had one. Then interest rates went up. When rates went up, adjustable mortgages adjusted up. Marginal borrowers began to default. Foreclosures appeared on the market selling for bargain prices. Now because of Sarbanes/Oxley, when a house sold at below market, they had to mark DOWN all their investments in that market. That forced them to have to come up with more reserves meaning take the money they would otherwise lend out and hold it in the vault as reserves against defaults. They were holding minimum reserves because a guy named Geithner at the New York Federal Reserve ruled that since the values of the underlying assets were increasing, they could consider the loans practically “riskless” as long as they carried default insurance. AIG was selling the default insurance. They were insuring “riskless” loans and collecting a monthly premium for it. A giant cash cow.
Now once property values began to defauly, AIG had to pony up the “default insurance”. Declining median prices forced the lenders to mark down all the assets in these markets, stop lending, and build up reserves. Now that the loans were no longer “riskless” and no longer had any appreciation equity (and likely “under water”) AIG’s reserve requirements for premium insurance went through the roof. That program when from a cash cow to a cash sponge practically overnight. There wasn’t enough capital in the markets to provide AIG with what it would need. So the whole string of dominoes collapsed.
But the real tragedy is that the people who created that whole mess are now in charge of cleaning it up and so far they have done so by shoveling money at the problem.
I don’t think we have so many positive feedbacks in the climate going unmodeled as we had in the financial markets. TARP was supposed to be a circuit breaker by buying up the toxic assets easing reserve and insurance requirements but so far not a dime of TARP money has been used to buy up those toxic assets it was billed as being for. Instead it has quite literally gone into the reserves of the lenders, pockets of supporters and used to leverage out executives who are not cronies.
This collapse was brought to you by government manipulation of the markets. They were warned in 2005 and in 2007 that this exact scenario was coming. YouTube has video of Maxine Waters and Barney Frank saying that those warnings were figments of the imagination of their political opposition.
Expect the same thing to happen when government starts trying to manipulate climate.

Richard Hill

OK, this is a good summary of Mr Smith’s opinion. But, it is a waste of bandwidth when it is a personal opinion.
As a Fellow of the Amer Met Soc, what is Mr. Smith doing about getting an official pronouncement from the Society about this?
Or at the very least, getting any official statements from the Society about AGW withdrawn.

Leon Brozyna

observer (20:41:02) :
O/T. Space site has sunspots 12 but says on picture caption that sun is blank i.e.: spotless. What’s up with that?

Sunspot group 11020 had a quickie display; looks to be gone now. Even that group’s earlier spots were hard to see from SOHO. Though SWPC listed an event as being observed Friday, their report made no mention of it. See:
http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/forecast.html

Ron de Haan

Fany Mae, Freddy Mac, Managed on the basis of State Directives, selling mortgages to those who could not afford them and those who speculated with real estate, triggering the real estate crises that turned into the financial crises and now into a depression.
How much more State meddeling can we afford?
After this debacle the State is burning money at a rate never seen in history.
How can people who grab for power with a track reord of mismanagement make responsible policies in regard to our climate and our economy?
Although they state otherwise….they can’t!
The bigger the Government, the bigger the ambitions, the higher the taxes,
the bigger the mess.

We also know that forecasting the weather beyond five days is dicey at best.

Five?? That’s being pretty generous.

On May 15, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated there were upwards of 100,000 cases in the country…”
As of yesterday, June 12, the CDC was reporting 17,855 known cases in the United States.
http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/update.htm
The World Health Organization reports 29669 cases world wide but are reporting only 13,217 cases for the United States, substantially under-reporting, but this is probably due to lag-time for the reports getting into the system.
http://www.who.int/csr/don/2009_06_12/en/index.html
I haven’t looked to see what the projection on likely unreported cases is, but the confirmed cases are substantially under the number suggested in this post. It would be nice to see documentation of provenance for these figures.

Carl

Here is something to truly ponder…
Randomness is a measure of ignorance.

Mariss Freimanis

Your argument is flawed in its basic premise; you are using logic and reason. It’s like bringing a knife to a gun fight. Your opponents are politicians of every stripe that smell tax money to be made from AWG and greens, environmentalists and other anarchists who won’t be satisfied until we are all living in mud huts. Neither use logic or reason and it’s senseless to combat directly them that way.
We live in the era of “the short attention span”; be thankful for it. Ideas that took decades or centuries of thought to digest in the past now pass through the body public in a few months to a few years. AWG is well on its way past the peak of the curve and is starting its downward slide on the backside.
Your opponents used fear and uncertainty to push their cause; emotion is a far more powerful weapon than reason. What offended me was twisting science into becoming their handmaiden; science was the last pure and unpoliticized respected authority and it was whored-out into buttressing the unsupportable pro AWG viewpoint. Particularly vile was the parade of 10,000 scientists thing as if science depended on consensus.
The first sign-post of trouble in the AWG camp was the assertion “the science on this subject is settled” comment. In effect, that statement said no further arguments would be brooked. It struck me as being hysterically defensive and uncharacteristic of an assured and defensible belief. It was then that the tide turned.
The public does have a short attention span. Its focus is helped by the current economic downturn to concentrate on the essentials instead of esoteric matters better afforded when times are good. Secondarily, the growing weight of recent experience helps as well; summers are cooler and winters are colder than before. They have been for a decade. Everyone notices that and throws this practical experience against the arguments to the contrary.
My guess is the AWG fad has passed its zenith. Watch out for the politicians though, they will be the last to give it up once they have gotten the scent of money.
Mariss

Tim

I just noticed the following Google Ad showing up under this article:
Ads by Google
SALE – The Great Warming
with Keanu Reeves and Alanis Morissette – only $9.95
http://www.thegreatwarming.com
How many hits on that do you think they’ll get from WUWT readers? LOL.

glenncz

Liberals don’t understand that the financial crisis was created by REGULATION as Crosspatch explained above. It was the stupid fools that regulated and forced these idiotic loans upon our society. Fannie Mac and Freedie Mae demanded that loans be made that would never have been made in a Free Market, but they had to be. Very similar to the thousands of windmills being constructed, every single one of them mostly with government money. The government makes it a riskless investment mandating that our old fashion electrical companies buy their erratic, intermittent, undependable power that is mostly produced at the wrong time of the day and the wrong season of the year. Then the electrical companies get on the teet, they workforce actually grows to handle this intermittentcy, they charge more and become more powerful and realize playing along has its’ benefit. Of course, all along being led and pushed by the wide-eyed speculators who will stop at nothing to take our civilization down. The graduation party goes on downstairs, what kind of world will these young adults try to make their way in? On with 80% less energy based on some computer theory? No instead, they will just PAY PAY PAY.

Leon Brozyna (21:02:28) :
I predict that, at the end of their lives, everyone will die. Beyond that, everything about the future is speculative wishing and hoping, whether arrived at via séance or supercomputer (though the séance is cheaper).
You wrong… I’m eternal… 🙂
Seriously, I don’t know why the WHO dictated that flu is now a pandemic. Flu is everywhere each year! The difference is that statistics are now of public domain when, before this scare wide campaign, the NHID was sharing information only with members.

John Egan

Esperanto estas mirinda lingvo uzis de milionoj da homoj.

Robert Burns

The article does not mention Long Term Capital Management, a computer driven hedge fund (based on the ideas of two of its directors who shared a Nobel prize) that went bust.
Scientific and engineering models may be have more forecasting ability than economic models because economic and financial future events depend on human action, and people do not always react the same way. Some of us know some history and we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past…we make our own mistakes.
Crosspatch….models do not assume normal conditions…economic models assume that there are relationships between variables and time lags which are true. The model then blows up when the relationship is not true. And I generally agree with the rest of your post.
Take a look at this site which shows actual unemployment vs the council of economic advisers forecast with and without the stimulus as a current example of model gone wrong.
http://michaelscomments.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/stimulus-vs-unemployment-may-corrected.gif

eo

Lets get back to environmental management. Engineers traditionally use a factor of safety ( also known as the factor of ignorance ) to cover for all possible uncertainty in their calculations, the actual operating conditions, the quality of constrction materials, etc. As the knowledge base expands and the uncertainty is reduced, the factor of safety is correspondingly adjusted. While the trend has been to smaller factor of safety, it is not unusual for the factor of safety to increase with increasing risk.
But lets face it, while environmental management would like to project an image of being scientifically based the real stimulus is really by politicians meeting frequently in international conventions, meeting of parties, UN meetings etc. At the end of those meetings a result has to be provided to the public often called a declaration, minister’s statement, etc. As each politician goes to the meeting with their own national interest first and foremost, it is really difficult to come up with a specific agreement so the declarations often ends with vague and high sounding sales slogan. The factor of safety is replaced by vague words like ” precautionary principle”. Dont worry about trying to establish some range of factor of safety –if the potential impacts is hgh enough then act. In other words — the expected value is the prduct of zero and infinity. So in climate change, the proponent of AGW is harping at the infinity term or near infinity with the other party looking at the near zero probability.

OT The May Gistemp figures appear out due to a strange reading for May at Amundsen-Scott at the South Pole. See The Blackboard for more discussion. At -51.4C this may average beats the previous low by over 2 degrees C! Perhaps someone had a midnight BBQ party next to the weatehr station!
http://rankexploits.com/musings/2009/giss-temp-rose-to-055c-in-may/comment-page-1/#comment-14530

deadwood

Alas, there is nothing common about having sense enough to see the obvious when all the rent seekers surrounding you are screaming about the end of the world.

tom

Climate modeling suffers from more than complexity. Lackof accurate boundary conditions, insufficient understanding of key variables i.e, air pollution and aerosols and most of all wrongheaded assumption about the existence of positive feedback. There are plenty of arguments against existence of positive feedback, the workof Drs. Lindzen and Spencer, paleoclimatic data and the fact that any system controlled by positive feedback is inherently unstable.
There are only two things there that support positive feedback.
One, the rather childish assumption that increasing temperature will result in more atmospheric water vapor concentration and increased greenhouse effect. Implied in this assumption that the water vapor will just stay there and will not move, precipitate aor contribute to cloud formation.
Secondly, the much more solid knowledge that without assumption of positive feedback, the whole edifice of global warming will come crashing down leaving its proponents without a government grant to support their lifestyle.

philincalifornia

crosspatch (21:11:17) :
Expect the same thing to happen when government starts trying to manipulate climate.
————-
Remember this one from the G-8 global warming deal. Oh how we laughed:
“Merkel and Blair also suggested a target of keeping global temperature increases to less than 2 degrees Celsius by 2050, which is not part of the deal.”
I remember it like it was yesterday but it was, in fact, June 8th, 2007. I had visions of some great big German climate contraption with, of course, stainless steel dials and knobs, and blue, make that green, lights. Of course, the climate temperature setting would be a dial about three feet in diameter, with the temperature settings in big white letters around it, and the photo op would be Angela turning the dial to whatever temperature the very important Committee had decided was to be the global setting.
The real scary thing though is that they actually believed it.

You could make quite an impressive list of these “Government Experts Say” stories.
AIDS, SARS, Avian Influenza and our latest Porcine Bogeyman.
We in the UK are now told that our Swineflu epidemic will now strike in the Autumn, when the educational institutes are full of students (Funny, most are still full now)

Alex

“O/T. Space site has sunspots 12 but says on picture caption that sun is blank i.e.: spotless. What’s up with that?”
You aren’t the only one confused:
sc24.com: “The sun received a sunspot number of 12 today as Sunspot 1020 re-appeared. I was at work all day long and it looks like I missed the 2 small speck show. I dont know how it received a sunspot number, but it did.”
This isn’t really OT, because as you know all the ‘experts’ have been predicting a massive sc24 and now that this isn’t happening they are claiming it will be near average. So, to keep their prediction on target, the spots must follow the curve! The prediction graph indicates and uptick must start now, so they number every spot regardless of how long it lasted. But hey, at least if there is a Dalton minimum repeat we will know that even a cycle that has been recorded as “average” can produce the same phenomena experienced 200 years ago! 😉

Stoic

“After the meltdown occurred, a second Forbes article stated, “All existing models for calculating risk, he [Nassim Taleb] says, should be thrown out because they underestimate extreme price swings. ‘The track record of economists in predicting events is monstrously bad,’ he says.” (February 2, 2009, p. 21) Of course, we learn this after our home values and values of our 401K’s are wrecked.”
Michael Smith is unfair to Nassim Taleb. He has been pointing out the perils of prediction for some years. His book “Fooled by Randomness” was published in 2004 and “The Black Swan” was published in 2007.
A major problem for our society is the inappropriate use of models in many fields. For example in my small home town a planning application has recently been submitted for a new supermarket. The town is notorious for its traffic delays and tailbacks during peak hours. Typical queue lengths at junctions are 60 to 70 cars. The supermarket has employed transport consultants to analyse traffic conditions. The consultants carried out a simple traffic count but did not measure queue lengths. They fed the data into ARCADY, a reputable model developed by the UK Transport Research Laboratory, and concluded that maximum queue lengths during peak hour are 2.65 vehicles long. This is a dramatic error!. The consultants, who clearly have failed to visit the town, have concluded that there is virtually zero queuing and ample capacity for more development.
In the British armed forces there is a saying, “Bullshit Baffles Brains”. The public official charged with assessing the consultants’ hugely flawed analysis has written: “The Marlow Society base their objection on what is considered to be a flawed computer analysis. It must be remembered that Arcady is only a tool and cannot model how people actually drive. Therefore the figures [that] are produced are theoretical and show the delays that would occur if all available road space was used. The important thing is that the increase in queue lengths, no matter how they are derived, is minimal. I accept Mr Post’s comments on the existing queue lengths but I would suggest this is due to the way people drive rather than a lack of capacity.”
So, if you visit our beautiful riverside town ever, be warned, Marlow-on-Thames drivers drive differently and fail to use all their available road space!
Forgive this off-climate deviation, but it seems to me that models, or more importantly, model users are a huge problem in all areas of society from climate change to pensions. Nassim Taleb is a prophet who should be lauded. If Michael Smith had thought to read Taleb before the recent financial meltdown, he would have been forewarned. As Yogi Berra famously said: “Prediction is very hard, especially about the future.”

KimW

When I am told by ‘believers’, of these predictions made from computer models, I ask them to imagine themselves in Edwardian England on a lovely summers day in May 1914 and please outline history to the year 2000. No one is game to make such a prediction although all the data is there. How can you predict any chaotic system to be modelled accurately ?

oms

tom (23:02:43) :

There are only two things there that support positive feedback.
One, the rather childish assumption that increasing temperature will result in more atmospheric water vapor concentration and increased greenhouse effect.

I like the choice of words. What do “adults” think will happen?

Secondly, the much more solid knowledge that without assumption of positive feedback, the whole edifice of global warming will come crashing down leaving its proponents without a government grant to support their lifestyle.

What does this have to do with lifestyle? I actually have curiosity about what will happen in the future. Oh wait, if the climate is cooling does that mean we won’t be able to apply for grants?

Tenuc

All real scientists know that it is futile to model multi-dimensional chaotic systems. like our climate, and expect to get accurate forecasts of future trends. However, use of models which illustrate the outcome you want to see is a very effective propaganda tool for scaring people into accepting a political agenda which you wish to pursue.
I think that many climate modellers are similar to astrologers – they both use pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo to produce their forecasts, which tell their customers what they want to hear.

brazil84

Has there EVER been a simulation model of a complex system which was long term accurate?
I doubt it, because you (1) you never each aspect of the system completely accurately — there is always a little uncertainty; and (2) such uncertainties tend to multiply and grow over time.
If a butterfly in China can cause a storm in New York, why can’t that storm in New York cause a Little Icea Age?

JohnF

Excellent reality check. Thank you.

All Earth Science models are subject to the non-uniqueness principle. It’s not uncommon for multiple models to explain a particular set of observations equally well.
In the Gulf of Mexico, “bright spots” – seismic amplitude anomalies – are often associated with hydrocarbon accumulations. But, there are a lot of things besides hydrocarbons that can cause bright spots. Models are helpful; but they are far from conclusive. It’s very easy to build a model that predicts that bright spots are indicative of pay in sands where pay has no bright spot signature. These models, though honestly and competently constructed, are fatally flawed because they are predicting something that is highly unlikely and usually could have been ruled out by analogy.

Paul Coppin

“Well, to be fair, the models were assuming “normal” market conditions. What we had was a system greatly skewed by government manipulation. How would climate models hold up in the face of some sort of intentional manipulation by human beings?”
And this is characteristic of the failure of many (most?) modeling systems – they can’t accommodate the anomaly that places data outside the errors bars and yet cannot be removed as an outlier because the entire system has been perturbed by its presence.
Decades ago, Sir McFarlane Burnet was quoted as saying “the only thing you can be sure about in Biology, is that you can’t be sure about anything.” His reference spoke to the inability in biological modeling systems to both fully identify and control variables, most especially will. Chaos rules, and until you can predictably model unpredictable chaotic events, models will never accurately predict beyond the pre-pertubation ground state. Stated another way, the only thing they have some ability to do is model the inter-perturbation period.
Climate models aren’t predicting anything. They only project a time-linear consequence based on some of yesterday’s information. This is nothing more than navel-gazing raised to a high art.

M White

From Junk Science
UAH MSU +0.05 °C. Rank: 16/31
Warmest May in this series was in 1998.
Average last 12 months: 0.14 °C.
GISTEMP +0.55 °C. Rank: 5/130
Warmest May in this series was in 1998.
Average last 12 months: 0.49 °C.
RSS MSU +0.09 °C. Rank: 16/31
Warmest May in this series was in 1998.
Average last 12 months: 0.18 °C.
http://junkscience.com/MSU_Temps/Warming_Look.html
Still waiting for the HadCRUT figure

Richard Heg

Common sense is far too complex a thing to reproduce in a computer model so the results of computer models have to go through our own common sense filter. Problem is its an individual thing which can not be described or justified on paper so is often ignored by large organisations.

J. D. Lindskog

I predict that someone will predict our predictive model success rate to improve by 99.9% when the first projected prediction comes true.

timbrom

Crosspatch – re your (21:11:17)
Very many thanks for that superbly clear explanation of how the crash came about. With your permission, I’d love to “cut and paste” it to a whole bunch of friends, some of whom still believe it was all down to greedy bankers. The fact that the party that was in power in the US when the whole house of cards was set up, is back with both Houses and the Presidency wrapped up should be worrying a lot of people.
Tim Bromige

rbateman

“observer (20:41:02) :
O/T. Space site has sunspots 12 but says on picture caption that sun is blank i.e.: spotless. What’s up with that?”
It sublimated. It was predicted, so therefore space must be filled.
I cannot find a GONG, SOHO or UCCLE image of it.
Nobody drew it (Mt. Wilson, Catania, Uccle)
These spot phantoms keep popping up, like failed financials.
There are millions of pores on the Sun, and you can always count on one of them to be your ‘sucker born every minute’.
So, you can fake spots all day long by counting pores, but when you go outside tomorrow and project the Sun, you will see the reality of the situation. You cannot hide the Sun, it’s an Astronomical object with Equal Opportunity, anymore than you can fake the catastrophic Ocean rise.
Credit DeSpot Swap.

Shawn Whelan

Fannie and Freddie were known to be tipping into failure. Congress was warned about it and disregarded the warning.
The economist like Peter Schiff, Marc Faber, Jim Rogers that predicted this correctly made a fortune shorting the financials.
Of course it is true that the consensus of economist missed the whole meltdown and now they are wrong again in predicting a quick recovery.
Here is Congress being warned about Fannie and Freddie.
In response they berate the person correctly predicting the coming failure.
http://blog.beliefnet.com/reformedchicksblabbing/2008/09/maxine-waters-we-do-not-have-a.html
Peter Schiff was right.

Mike Bryant

philincalifornia (23:43:52) :
Remember this one from the G-8 global warming deal. Oh how we laughed:
“Merkel and Blair also suggested a target of keeping global temperature increases to less than 2 degrees Celsius by 2050, which is not part of the deal.”
Armed with this new insight, the Global Thermostat is just months from reality:
http://www.physorg.com/news163861421.html

Nasif Nahle (22:24:48) :
Seriously, I don’t know why the WHO dictated that flu is now a pandemic
You are a biologist and you know what you say on this issue, so:Are they making a prediction as the other UN agency IPCC?
“Unless we announce disasters no one will listen.”
– Sir John Houghton,
“We need to get some broad based support, to capture the public’s imagination…So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements and make little mention of any doubts…
Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest.”
– Prof. Stephen Schneider, Stanford Professor of Climatology,
lead author of many IPCC reports
http://www.green-agenda.com/

Ron de Haan

Another failed alarmist prediction:
http://blogs.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/timblair/index.php/dailytelegraph/comments/rain_denied/
Tim Blair
Saturday, June 13, 2009 at 04:57am
A Tim Flannery prediction from 2008:
The water problem is so severe for Adelaide that it may run out of water by early 2009.
We’ve hit 2009’s midway point, and Adelaide’s water supply is currently at 54 per cent of capacity. That’s more than 100,000 megalitres, with yet more to come:
South Australia is in for a wet weekend, including possible floods, as significant rainfall is forecast in all districts south of Port Augusta.
Up to 30mm of rain could fall in southern agricultural areas, including Adelaide, but up to 50mm is forecast in the Mount Lofty and Southern Flinders Ranges by the end of Tuesday.
Flannery’s been blown out of the water, so to speak, as is usual when he claims Australian cities are about to run dry. So how does Flannery respond?
Australian scientist and campaigner Tim Flannery, one of the conference organisers, said climate change was harming his home country. “Water resources have dried out to the point where they’re now affecting the future of some of our cities.”
Flannery is a rain denialist.
UPDATE. Flannery addresses the “carbon imbalance of the planet”:
Look at the link to see his BS speech.
This is the sort of speech for which Flannery once claimed to charge $50,000.

don't tarp me bro

My pastor told a c-store clerk when gas was 4 dollars last july, it would be below 2 dollars before Christmas. The clerk said it would be 6 dollars at Christmas. He also on Wednesday night said fear was of the Devil in reference to global warming. He is a degreed engineer.
We have what he said last July on some audio tapes.
I of course said almost the same for 3 different reasons.
We had 3,500 oil tankers offshore waiting for crude to go up a dollar a day. They hustled to unload during hurricane season. Inventory figures were low because so much oil was not offloaded.
I also had learned some short positions that speculators had and knew it was a price inflated by speculation.
This is a great site and facts really take away emotionally jacked up fear. I sat in Mobils internation exploration conference room and was told in 1981 that we had 12 years oil left. We can’t do without oil consumption so that is qwhy they tax it. The excuse they give is it hurts our health.

Kirk W. Hanneman

Excellent article. I too am puzzled by the “random weather events will even out over time” shtick. Surely weather events are not “random” at all, no matter how much it seems that way to the average Joe. Things seem random when we don’t understand the way they work. If we understood weather enough to predict what it would be like in 2100, I don’t think it’s too much to ask that we be notified where and when hurricanes, tornadoes and severe thunderstorms will be forming in the next year. If we can’t even predict those sorts of things — at all! — how can we say temperatures will increase by 2 degrees in the next 100 years?

Michael D Smith

How many hits on that do you think they’ll get from WUWT readers?
Lots… I click on the WeCanSolveIt button every time… The irony that Al Gore & his band of believers could be paying Anthony is too delicious to pass up…
REPLY: Thanks for the thought, there’s no need. Unless you clear your cookies, or have them set not to accept, it counts as a re-view, not a fresh one. I think the cookies are 24 hours to expire. So a click a day, that’s all I ask. – Anthony

philincalifornia

don’t tarp me bro (07:36:40) :
My pastor told a c-store clerk when gas was 4 dollars last july, it would be below 2 dollars before Christmas. The clerk said it would be 6 dollars at Christmas. He also on Wednesday night said fear was of the Devil in reference to global warming. He is a degreed engineer
———————-
Number of protons in carbon 6
Number of neutrons in carbon 6
Number of electrons in carbon 6
666 is the number of the beast, and he’s infiltrated all of us sinners !!

Trouble arises when there is the need to make predictions become true no matter how hard it is, and finally arriving to the conclusion that, at the end of the day, what matters is that at least a “paradigmatic reality” is created.
So, for example, “global warming” has life of its own, and as such a hundred or a thousand of blogs like WUWT won´t make it disappear.
[snip – no references to WWII propagandists, I’ve warned you about this before- Anthony]

Stefan

As a layman, I wondered about the distinction between “weather” and “climate”. I was told that the reason global warming can be predicted is because “climate” is not the same as weather. As a layman I would be interested to hear the evidence for this, because as far as I can see, that distinction is just completely made up.

MikeN

Joe Romm’s Climate Progress has a guest blogger talking about by 2050 he will be retiring underwater or on fire. When I called on this, all the other commenters agreed.
http://climateprogress.org/2009/06/12/after-bonn-a-safe-future-for-youth-still-in-doubt/