The Unbearable Complexity of Climate

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

Figure 1. The Experimental Setup

I keep reading statements in various places about how it is indisputable “simple physics” that if we increase the amount of atmospheric CO2, it will inevitably warm the planet. Here’s a typical example:

In the hyperbolic language that has infested the debate, researchers have been accused of everything from ditching the scientific method to participating in a vast conspiracy. But the basic concepts of the greenhouse effect is a matter of simple physics and chemistry, and have been part of the scientific dialog for roughly a century.

Here’s another:

The important thing is that we know how greenhouse gases affect climate. It has even been predicted hundred years ago by Arrhenius. It is simple physics.

Unfortunately, while the physics is simple, the climate is far from simple. It is one of the more complex systems that we have ever studied. The climate is a tera-watt scale planetary sized heat engine. It is driven by both terrestrial and extra-terrestrial forcings, a number of which are unknown, and many of which are poorly understood and/or difficult to measure. It is inherently chaotic and turbulent, two conditions for which we have few mathematical tools.

The climate is composed of five major subsystems — atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere, lithosphere, and biosphere. All of these subsystems are imperfectly understood. Each of these subsystems has its own known and unknown internal and external forcings, feedbacks, resonances, and cyclical variations. In addition, each subsystem affects all of the other subsystems through a variety of known and unknown forcings and feedbacks.

Then there is the problem of scale. Climate has crucially important processes at physical scales from the molecular to the planetary, and at temporal scales from milliseconds to millennia.

As a result of this almost unimaginable complexity, simple physics is simply inadequate to predict the effect of a change in one of the hundreds and hundreds of things that affect the climate. I will give two examples of why “simple physics” doesn’t work with the climate — a river, and a block of steel. I’ll start with a thought experiment with the block of steel.

Suppose that I want to find out about how temperature affects solids. I take a 75 kg block of steel, and I put the bottom end of it in a bucket of hot water. I duct tape a thermometer to the top end in the best experimental fashion, and I start recording how the temperature change with time. At first, nothing happens. So I wait. And soon, the temperature of the other end of the block of steel starts rising. Hey, simple physics, right?

To verify my results, I try the experiment with a block of copper. I get the same result, the end of the block that’s not in the hot water soon begins to warm up. I try it with a block of glass, same thing. My tentative conclusion is that simple physics says that if you heat one end of a solid, the other end will eventually heat up as well.

So I look around for a final test. Not seeing anything obvious, I have a flash of insight. I weigh about 75 kg. So I sit with my feet in the bucket of hot water, put the thermometer in my mouth, and wait for my head to heat up. This experimental setup is shown in Figure 1 above.

After all, simple physics is my guideline, I know what’s going to happen, I just have to wait.

And wait … and wait …

As our thought experiment shows, simple physics may simply not work when applied to a complex system. The problem is that there are feedback mechanisms that negate the effect of the hot water on my cold toes. My body has a preferential temperature which is not set by the external forcings.

For a more nuanced view of what is happening, let’s consider the second example, a river. Again, a thought experiment.

I take a sheet of plywood, and I cover it with some earth. I tilt it up so it slopes from one edge to the other. For our thought experiment, we’ll imagine that this is a hill that goes down to the ocean.

I place a steel ball at the top edge of the earth-covered plywood, and I watch what happens. It rolls, as simple physics predicts, straight down to the lower edge. I try it with a wooden ball, and get the same result. I figure maybe it’s because of the shape of the object.

So I make a small wooden sled, and put it on the plywood. Again, it slides straight down to the ocean. I try it with a miniature steel shed, same result. It goes directly downhill to the ocean as well. Simple physics, understood by Isaac Newton.

As a final test, I take a hose and I start running some water down from the top edge of my hill to make a model river. To my surprise, although the model river starts straight down the hill, it soon starts to wander. Before long, it has formed a meandering stream, which changes its course with time. Sections of the river form long loops, the channel changes, loops are cut off, new channels form, and after while we get something like this:

Figure 2. Meanders, oxbow bends, and oxbow lakes in a river system. Note the old channels where the river used to run.

The most amazing part is that the process never stops. No matter how long we run the river experiment, the channel continues to change. What’s going on here?

Well, the first thing that we can conclude is that, just as in our experiment with the steel block, simple physics simply doesn’t work in this situation. Simple physics says that things roll straight downhill, and clearly, that ain’t happening here … it is obvious we need better tools to analyze the flow of the river.

Are there mathematical tools that we can use to understand this system? Yes, but they are not simple. The breakthrough came in the 1990’s, with the discovery by Adrian Bejan of the Constructal Law. The Constructal Law applies to all flow systems which are far from equilibrium, like a river or the climate.

It turns out that these types of flow systems are not passive systems which can take up any configuration. Instead, they actively strive to maximize some aspect of the system. For the river, as for the climate, the system strives to maximize the sum of the energy moved and the energy lost through turbulence. See the discussion of these principles here, herehere, and here. There is also a website devoted to various applications of the Constructal Law here.

There are several conclusions that we can make from the application of the Constructal Law to flow systems:

1. Any flow system far from equilibrium is not free to take up any form as the climate models assume. Instead, it has a preferential state which it works actively to achieve.

2. This preferential state, however, is never achieved. Instead, the system constantly overshoots and undershoots that state, and does not settle down to one final form. The system never stops modifying its internal aspects to move towards the preferential state.

3. The results of changes in such a flow system are often counterintuitive. For example, suppose we want to shorten the river. Simple physics says it should be easy. So we cut through an oxbow bend, and it makes the river shorter … but only for a little while. Soon the river readjusts, and some other part of the river becomes longer. The length of the river is actively maintained by the system. Contrary to our simplistic assumptions, the length of the river is not changed by our actions.

So that’s the problem with “simple physics” and the climate. For example, simple physics predicts a simple linear relationship between the climate forcings and the temperature. People seriously believe that a change of X in the forcings will lead inevitably to a chance of A * X in the temperature. This is called the “climate sensitivity”, and is a fundamental assumption in the climate models. The IPCC says that if CO2 doubles, we will get a rise of around 3C in the global temperature. However, there is absolutely no evidence to support that claim, only computer models. But the models assume this relationship, so they cannot be used to establish the relationship.

However, as rivers clearly show, there is no such simple relationship in a flow system far from equilibrium. We can’t cut through an oxbow to shorten the river, it just lengthens elsewhere to maintain the same total length. Instead of being affected by a change in the forcings, the system sets its own preferential operating conditions (e.g. length, temperature, etc.) based on the natural constraints and flow possibilities and other parameters of the system.

Final conclusion? Because climate is a flow system far from equilibrium, it is ruled by the Constructal Law. As a result, there is no physics-based reason to assume that increasing CO2 will make any difference to the global temperature, and the Constructal Law gives us reason to think that it may make no difference at all. In any case, regardless of Arrhenius, the “simple physics” relationship between CO2 and global temperature is something that we cannot simply assume to be true.


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December 27, 2009 7:56 pm

Thank you, Willis, for the well-written comments.
With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel

Jeff L
December 27, 2009 7:58 pm

The simple physics are still part of the overall description of the system (in both cases), but the key is they are only PART, not the entirety of the description of the system.
Willis, the stream equilibrium analog is interesting. For anyone who doubts the description provided, check the geological literature – there is tons of geological research of both modern & ancient fluvial systems which support the basic description provided.
Now the critical data which we haven’t seen is with forcings in the climate “flow” system – is there data that could be used to support this hypothesis that it behaves in an analogous way to the stream model (has an equilibrium independent of forcings). And if this is true, over what time scales is it true? Willis, if you could expand on that with some data, it could provide a fairly powerful argument.

December 27, 2009 7:58 pm

Wow that is the best explaination so far. I have read many good explainations, but this one is simple, easy to understand and follow along with (including the thought experiments).

Charles Higley
December 27, 2009 7:58 pm

An excellent treatment. I will read it to my physics students – next year!

gtrip
December 27, 2009 8:00 pm

Where do the proles fit in?

December 27, 2009 8:01 pm


3. The results of changes in such a flow system are often counterintuitive. For example, suppose we want to shorten the river. Simple physics says it should be easy. So we cut through an oxbow bend, and it makes the river shorter … but only for a little while.

So far, it has worked in downtown Battle Creek; however, it should be mentioned that the banks of said river are now made of concrete 😉 … that was >30 years ago.
Battle Creek and the ‘plains’ it and surrounding communities exist in are an area that was effectively evened out over geological time (after the glaciers) by the ‘meandering river’ and oxbow lake (and swamp) effect.
.
.

u.k.(us)
December 27, 2009 8:02 pm

chaos, the bane of models.

Gorky
December 27, 2009 8:03 pm

I carried out a similar thought experiment last week:
Suppose we did not know that water boiled at 100C, and we were engaged in predicting the long-term surface level in a tank which we were also heating. Based on measured trends we would confidently expect the depth of water to go on increasing in a linear fashion as we warmed it and it expanded. We would be correct only until boiling started! Then we would have a period of turmoil, followed by a steadly FALL in the level due to the loss of water as it boiled off as steam.
When you get complicated and REAL, it’s what you don’t know and didn’t think of that stuffs things up!
Hmm – that boiling WAS a tipping point though!!

December 27, 2009 8:04 pm

gtrip (20:00:23) :
“Where do the proles fit in?”
Everyone has a job in the new world order. The job of the proles is to pay the freight.

Doug in Seattle
December 27, 2009 8:06 pm

Are there any researchers looking at climate as a system governed by a Constructal Law?

Phil's Dad
December 27, 2009 8:07 pm

I’m not sure cutting out / bypassing an oxbow would have no effect on the length but I do buy that it would have an unpredictable effect as a result of a change in pressure both upstream and down. I think your point is better made by saying that if we fiddle with things it will have unforeseen/unpredictable consequences, that we will need to adapt to, rather than none; and that similarly we can not attribute current consequences to past simple actions.

Dave Worley
December 27, 2009 8:07 pm

A wonderfully simple illustration of the difficulty of modeling fluid dynamics.

RhudsonL
December 27, 2009 8:14 pm

forgot to include the racism

Theo Goodwin
December 27, 2009 8:23 pm

Very good work, Mr. Eschenbach.
I do not know how many times that someone has told me that they will explain the theory of global warming and then they describe the relevant properties of the CO2 molecule? Excuse, me! That is no theory of global warming. Much…much more is needed, as you show.
For example, can global warming advocates predict where the offending CO2 particles are found? I take it they are not randomly distributed between Earth and Heaven. (Even that would be a hypothesis of sorts.) They do collect somewhere up there, don’t they? Well, do they heat up? So, can global warming advocates predict, on a given day, where to find a warm spot in the atmosphere (or higher) that is caused by the offending CO2 molecules. No warming advocate has given me a positive response. Yet they refuse to take their inability to make such predictions as maybe counting against their theory. (Though some folks have said the failure to find such a warm spot somewhere over tropical South America is a major problem – but they are not climategaters.)
By contrast, Svensmark’s theory about the formation of clouds that contribute to cooling actually predicts where the clouds will be found and explains the causes of the cloud formation. Now, there we have a theory that can be used and tested.

jorgekafkazar
December 27, 2009 8:31 pm

gtrip (20:00:23) : “Where do the proles fit in?”
north prole at the top, south prole at the bottom.

JAC
December 27, 2009 8:35 pm

Correct me if I’m wrong … but in addition to the climate being a complex system, by itself, CO2 can only warm the planet by a limited amount due to the fact that additional warming reduces logarithmically in response to additional CO2. For a “catastrophic” temperature change additional positive feedback mechanisms are required that increase the climate system’s sensitivity to CO2.
My point is, that even simple physics says that CO2 has a limited warming effect, and that additional complexity (i.e. positive feedback mechanisms) must be introduced to get the sort of warming predicted by climate models. Is this correct?

gtrip
December 27, 2009 8:36 pm

_Jim (20:01:03) :
So far, it has worked in downtown Battle Creek; however, it should be mentioned that the banks of said river are now made of concrete 😉 … that was >30 years ago.
Battle Creek and the ‘plains’ it and surrounding communities exist in are an area that was effectively evened out over geological time (after the glaciers) by the ‘meandering river’ and oxbow lake (and swamp) effect.
So what? I don’t know what you are saying. There is nothing wrong with routing a river through a city by using concrete. The concrete banks may not last forever, but they will serve their purpose for as long as they can. And your city will be able to crank out corn flakes for the good of the nation until they collapse.

December 27, 2009 8:40 pm

Unfortunately, while the physics is simple, the climate is far from simple
That is because the Earth basically is cold without being too cold. Heat it up enough [say to 10,000 degrees] or cool it a couple hundred degrees, and simple physics takes over. In the regime of liquid water is where things get complicated.

December 27, 2009 8:46 pm

SHOUTS “WIKI TRYING TO DELETE CLIMATEGATE ARTICLE! PLZ HELP!”
http://magicjava.blogspot.com/2009/12/wikipedia-now-trying-to-delete.html

John F. Hultquist
December 27, 2009 8:46 pm

All this ‘simple physics’ makes me think of the simple formula for the area of a circle. Area is equal to pi times the radius squared. Many people have used this simple formula. Not many can derive it or prove that it is true.
But the simple GHG idea is even more difficult. When someone says it is simple, just say “Prove it.” Ask them if the process works for CO2 why doesn’t it work for O2 or N2, both of which are major components of the atmosphere. Yes, some people do know what is going on but most have no idea, especially those out in the snow chanting ‘turn off the heat.” And if it is simple physics, why must there be some unknown ‘forcing’ to make it work. Do most of the people know about this or have any idea how quickly simple physics gets astoundingly complex?
As for Willis’s example the concepts for meandering rivers have been shown for years in earth science classes, thus providing such a demand that the “stream table” has been commercialized:
http://wardsci.com/category.asp?c=890&bhcd2=1261975346
and an interesting example:
http://scienceblogs.com/highlyallochthonous/2009/10/how_to_build_a_meandering_rive.php
For many years Washington State University in Pullman had a RR-boxcar size one inside a building. Maybe they still do.

par5
December 27, 2009 8:48 pm

“The important thing is that we know how greenhouse gases affect climate. It has even been predicted hundred years ago by Arrhenius. It is simple physics.”
And every time I here James Hansen say this, I giggle uncontrolably. Arrhenius also concluded that the sun was made of coal, and that the earth was less than ten thousand years old.

par5
December 27, 2009 8:51 pm

“2. This preferential state, however, is never achieved. Instead, the system constantly overshoots and undershoots that state, and does not settle down to one final form. The system never stops modifying its internal aspects to move towards the preferential state.”
Like a sign wave.

Dennis Wingo
December 27, 2009 8:52 pm

The important thing is that we know how greenhouse gases affect climate. It has even been predicted hundred years ago by Arrhenius. It is simple physics.

This whole Arrhenius thing has always bothered me. His calculations were done before either Einstein or Plank’s work and without the foundation in quantum mechanics it is impossible to understand the absorption and emission of infrared radiation. I have been laboring through several of the papers that form the foundation that are used by the AGW community and have found that many of them do not say what it is claimed that they say. The best work in this area was actually done in the fifties and sixties and yet little of it has been applied to this modern era of computer analysis of the effect of CO2.

par5
December 27, 2009 8:54 pm

Oops, make that ‘sine’ wave.
..need sleep…

Glenn
December 27, 2009 8:55 pm

“So I sit with my feet in the bucket of hot water, put the thermometer in my mouth, and wait for my head to heat up.”
More than anyone needed to know, Willis. 🙂

December 27, 2009 8:55 pm

Thank you Willis!!!!
This is one of the best and most insightful articles I have seen anywhere.

crosspatch
December 27, 2009 8:56 pm

And it is no wonder that California schools are eliminating science labs. After all, you can get all the ‘science’ you need from the Acadamy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Just follow the Oscar!

Galen Haugh
December 27, 2009 9:00 pm

One infrequently-discussed component that adds to the heat balance is the mid-oceanic spreading centers. Recently a news item announced that for the first time, an oceanic eruption was filmed in progress. Yet that process has been going on continuously along the spreading centers for millions if not billions of years. The geometry looks like this:
http://www.uwgb.edu/dutchs/PLATETEC/SpreadCtrs.HTM
It involves heat sources from the upper mantle called the asthenosphere.
Most ocean basins have spreading centers–the largest runs most of the length of the Pacific and there are others as well; together they total 40,000 miles in length. A picture of it is shown here:
http://www.ngdc.noaa.gov/mgg/image/crustageposter.jpg
A lot of hydrothermal activity goes on at these spreading centers. The process involves downward migration of ocean water through the broken basalt along the flanks of the spreading centers and expulsion of that water as heated, mineral-rich hydrothermal fluids adjacent to the spreading axis in a continuous flow. It is estimated that a volume equal to the world’s entire ocean goes through this process every 8 million years or so. That’s a very long time, but then again, that’s a huge volume of water, especially considering the amount of heat it carries out of the earth’s crust.
Just another complicating factor contributing to the ocean’s heat balance and, somehow, to earth’s climate.

December 27, 2009 9:03 pm

Several problems with this. First, rivers are non-steady-state, that is, they wax from high flow (Spring runoff), then ebb to low flow (late summer). The shape of a river is created much more by the high flow events than other flow regimes. Anyone who has lived near a river knows this.
Second, climate is also non-steady-state, as is well-known.
Third, it is puzzling that climate is described as a flow. While it is true that some portions of the earth do flow (atmosphere via winds, and vertically via thermals, also ocean currents and icebergs, etc), as a whole the earth is not flowing anywhere. It is much more reasonable to view the earth as a heat transfer system, with heat input and heat output with very minor amounts of heat accumulations or loss, and having several heat transfer systems. Having some experience with design and control of heat transfer systems, including those at steady state and non-steady state, my conclusion is that Constructal Law has nothing to do with it.
The points made about the climate systems being complex and not understood are excellent, however. As Anthony pointed out in another (and recent) post, NOAA missed the 3-month prediction for temperatures in the USA for Oct-Nov-Dec 2009. They not only missed, they got it entirely wrong and by a large amount in the wrong direction. In short, they could not have been more wrong. And they used some sort of predictive model for this.

u.k.(us)
December 27, 2009 9:06 pm

it was a nice physics/geology lesson, too bad the AGWs required the co2 explanation at the end.

gtrip
December 27, 2009 9:08 pm

Any Fahrenheit 451 intellectuals here? It’s quite telling. State of Play readers? Orwellians?
Don’t you all find it ironic that Orwell and Bradbury used totalitarianism as their protagonists as the world is now falling further and further into the very grasp of control that they preached Socialism would protect us from?
Don’t let yourselves get caught up into what Bradbury called the family; A circle of people connected via the internet that think that they know each other.
Sometimes, one has to just make things right. Or you don’t.

Noaaprogrammer
December 27, 2009 9:09 pm

Apparently Constructal Law also applies to the understanding of, and further applications of Constructal Law itself – as in the words of Adrian Bejan who discovered it: “Good ideas flow fast and far and keep on flowing. – [but] – Government policy toward supporting research is wrongheaded.”

tom
December 27, 2009 9:09 pm

Dear Mr. Eschenbach,
I have read your article with a great deal of interest. It brought up some interesting arguments, which I think are right at a certain level, but it misses the point on a very different, but equally important level. The complexity of the climate is undoubtedly great and it is not inconceivable that we will never achieve a total comprehensive understanding of it. But lack of total understanding does not mean that we can not derive some understanding from interaction of some of the basic variables. I give you an example from two other comparably complex system. One is the human body and the other is the free market economy. While we know that the chemical processes used by the body to digest food involves an incredible complex series of chemical reaction involving the food, chemicals and enzymes generated by our bodies and other organisms that live in our digestive system. While these processes are incredible complex and our understanding of them is by no means complete we can predict with a relatively high degree of confidence that overeating will lead to obesity and starvation will lead health problems and possibly death. Similarly, a free market economy is incredibly complex, but it nevertheless responds positively to low interest rates and negatively to high interest rates.
The problem with using basic physics like CO2 being a greenhouse gas and such it causes global warming is not the fact that it cannot be applied because the climate is too complex. The problem with CO2 caused global warming that the numbers do not support it. Doubling of CO2 may cause a 1 degree C temperature increase (no feedback case), or somewhere between
0.5 to less than 1degree C if the feedback is negative. Since these were not scary enough scenarios, positive feedback was postulated by the proponents of AGW, to predict catastrophic warming. The problem with positive feedback is twofold. It implies an unstable runaway climate, which is not supported by paleoclimatic data, secondly there is absolutely no empirical evidence that it exists at all. Excellent scientists like Dr.Lindzen and Dr Spencer did a lot of work to show that in fact the climate feedback is negative. While their scientific work is excellent, there is one problem with their work. They fight against an unproven hypothesis. Rather like an accused has to prove his innocence in a court of law rather than the accuser has to prove the guilt of the accused. It would more effective for the sceptics to demand rigorous proof from AGW supporters to demonstrate that the climate system operates with positive feedback.

Holt
December 27, 2009 9:13 pm

If you told everyone on Capitol Hill the climate was governed by a Constructal Law they would greet you with a blank stare. If you yell, “CO2” they write you a check. Most take the check.

dcardno
December 27, 2009 9:14 pm

A lot of hydrothermal activity goes on at these spreading centers…
Well, no wonder – I mean, they are several million degrees, right?

gtrip
December 27, 2009 9:24 pm

Leif Svalgaard (20:40:16) :
Unfortunately, while the physics is simple, the climate is far from simple
That is because the Earth basically is cold without being too cold. Heat it up enough [say to 10,000 degrees] or cool it a couple hundred degrees, and simple physics takes over. In the regime of liquid water is where things get complicated.
And it will still work without any human input, and stop working without any input. Aren’t there crops to plant somewhere?

December 27, 2009 9:25 pm

With all the complex non-linear feedbacks in the climate system I would expect that the default position to start from would be that it is chaotic. With the temperature reconstructions of the last million years you would also expect the climate community to start from the position that climate is chaotic.
Chaotic, most people know but not everyone, means that the system is not random it is deterministic, but very small changes in initial conditions cause totally different outcomes. Therefore, chaotic systems under certain circumstances are impossible to model.
The visible climate community has talked itself and its followers into the view that weather is chaotic, but because climate is the average of weather it isn’t chaotic.
This I don’t understand.
There is a lot of *certainty* over at realclimate.org on this subject. “Climate is not chaotic” is the mantra.
I’d like to understand this better. Willis has given a nice analogy which just demonstrates how easy it is to form a conclusion about a system based on limited understanding of the processes in that system.
Anyone know of less certain people than realclimate who look into the subject of climate as chaotic and any papers on it?
http://scienceofdoom.com
REPLY: “weather” is known to be chaotic. Climate is a long term collection of weather events, so it stands to reason that it is also chaotic, but on a longer, slower time scale. – Anthony

gtrip
December 27, 2009 9:27 pm

jorgekafkazar (20:31:08) :
gtrip (20:00:23) : “Where do the proles fit in?”
north prole at the top, south prole at the bottom.
I thought those things cost money.

kadaka
December 27, 2009 9:28 pm

Cut off an oxbow, reduce the resistance by shortening the path, get a more energetic water flow. Then come the surges, like with seasonal flooding. When the water goes to leave the banks of the river, it goes to flood-prone areas that have wetter softer ground to start with (due to decreased drainage). The energetic rushing water will cut a new channel, and what caused the river to be where it is (water flowing downhill, rivers being at the lowest points of the terrain) will lead the new channel to reconnect with the river.
Then at the start of the new branch there will be a drop in water speed, as there are now two paths for the water to go. With the drop in speed, sediments being carried along in the water will tend to be dropped off right there, and since the new branch goes off at an angle the sediments will land at the straight part rather than make the turn. Eventually the build-up will keep choking off the straight part, leading to more energetic water in the branch so it will cut a deeper channel for itself resulting in more water volume through it, until finally the straight part no longer exists.
Does that sound like a proper description of the process?

December 27, 2009 9:30 pm

Jim Hansen is not going to be happy with you.

gtrip
December 27, 2009 9:31 pm

crosspatch (20:56:39) : – Ever thought of going radical? In a good way, I mean.

Glenn
December 27, 2009 9:36 pm

dcardno (21:14:33) :
A lot of hydrothermal activity goes on at these spreading centers…
“Well, no wonder – I mean, they are several million degrees, right?”
Those two thoughts put together by certain “right” persons would likely cause *their* heads to heat up.

Glenn
December 27, 2009 9:39 pm

gtrip (21:27:39) :
jorgekafkazar (20:31:08) :
gtrip (20:00:23) : “Where do the proles fit in?”
“north prole at the top, south prole at the bottom.
I thought those things cost money.”
Depends on your proint of view.

kevoka
December 27, 2009 9:43 pm

Maybe I have not read enough of the literature, but I continue to miss two other discussions about the other two key elements of the the simple physics:
The relationship between Temperature, Pressure and Volume. If the temperature of a gas goes up, either the volume will increase (unconstrained boundaries), and/or the pressure increases (constrained boundaries). The only boundary constraint on the gases in earth atmosphere is gravity.
The other limiting boundary is the Earths magnetic field. It does not constrain the gases, but it protects them from the solar wind. If they were to expand beyond the outer edges of the magnetic field, they would simply blow away.
I have yet to find any discussion on how the volume of the atmosphere would/should expand (perhaps beyond the magnetic field), due rising temperatures, or the atmospheric pressure would increase.
Last I looked we are still using 101,325 Pa as the standard pressure at sea level. If we are dumping Billions and Billions of tons of C02 into the air, should this not go up just a bit? Who should I call to get this adjusted? Would Al Gore know?

Noaaprogrammer
December 27, 2009 9:45 pm

Considering the hydrothermal activity between the oceans and the Earth’s interior, one would think that over time, the molton core would eventually cool and solidify. However as the Earth accretes interstellar matter, it increases its mass (I forget how many tons a year it is), but with increased mass comes an increase in gravitational pressure on the interior – albeit a very very small percent increase.
How would the increase in Earth’s mass and consequent increase in core pressure and heat over 8 million years compare with the dissipation of the Earth’s interior heat over the same time? Is it enough to keep it more or less in balance until heat death takes over?

jt
December 27, 2009 9:54 pm

People keep making the point that Climate is Chaotic as if that meant Climate is unpredictable on any scale. However, there are kinds of chaotic systems which operate around “attractors” so that they repeat their configurations in quasi-periodic fashion. I would be interested in comments from mathematically knowledgeable persons about whether such kinds of chaos have been found, or are likely to be found, in the systems which generate climate, and, if so, what kinds of quasi-periodicity have been found or are expected.

Brian P
December 27, 2009 9:54 pm

wow

savethesharks
December 27, 2009 9:55 pm

Brilliant essay, Willis. Thank you.
We have oceans that behave in chaos…and an atmosphere that does the same.
THe river analogy in the article….the meanders, oxbows *omega blocks*, and former channels….etc…..could very well be describing the Jet Stream.
And though one certainly can’t take sediment measurements for this type of river, it IS a river and it meanders nonetheless, its changing path in the means leaving clues in the climate records…
Chris
Norfolk, VA, USA

J.Hansford
December 27, 2009 10:00 pm

Yep, good stuff Willis. I will use that bar of iron or copper in hot water, then substituted for a human body, when in causual conversation with AGW proponents… Makes a good rough analogy for people caught up on the CO2’s properties are thus, therefore heating must be a given.
It’ll make them think about complexity…. Which is the arguement of the skeptics and their support of Natural variation of the climate system.

joshua corning
December 27, 2009 10:03 pm

Why are we calling climate chaotic?
In the first example Willis showed that human’s like all mammals regulate their own temperatures. I assume we do not call the regulation of internal temperature by mammals chaotic.
Why does the climate have to be chaotic? Can’t it just be complex and self regulating?

Les Francis
December 27, 2009 10:06 pm

Physics.
According to the laws of physics and aerodynamics, it is impossible for the humble bumblebee to fly

Andy Y
December 27, 2009 10:11 pm

Roger Sowell, ummm…. a heat transfer system IS a flow system. Come on man, that’s simple thermodynamics. So whatever criticisms you thought you were levying against Willis are completely unfounded and dumb. Additionally, no where in the entire commentary did he mention anything about steady state, so why you’re bringing that up is even more bewildering.

churn
December 27, 2009 10:11 pm

A stream or river will also maintain the same cross-sectional area. Make a change on one bank and either the bottom or the opposite bank will adjust accordingly to return to the original cross-sectional area. All this takes time and if the flow changes then this adds another layer of complexity.

Louis Hissink
December 27, 2009 10:15 pm

“A lot of hydrothermal activity goes on at these spreading centers. The process involves downward migration of ocean water through the broken basalt along the flanks of the spreading centers and expulsion of that water as heated, mineral-rich hydrothermal fluids adjacent to the spreading axis in a continuous flow.”
Er, no, the water cycle as envisaged by standard plate tectonics theory requires the suspension of gravity for starters, (less dense matter cannot descend into more dense matter), and it is more likely that the water coming out of the spreading ridges comes from the asthenosphere itself. Remember that igenous quartz crystals of the milky white color contain water in their crystal lattices – quartz without water is transparent – like a wine glass or the glass thermometer Willis used in his personalised experiment.
This raises the interesting possibility that rising sealevels might be due to degassing of the athenosphere and extraction of ground water by humanity causing land subsidence in the case of some areas in California. And this isn’t in any climate model.
Actually while WIllis’ concise description is spot on, he neglected to mention the role electricty plays in earth and solar dynamics, and when you add this component to the physics of climate, the whole argument for CO2 raising temperatures becomes farcical.

Methow Ken
December 27, 2009 10:15 pm

Excellent.

Larry
December 27, 2009 10:15 pm

Dennis Wingo (20:52:57) :
“This whole Arrhenius thing has always bothered me. His calculations were done before either Einstein or Plank’s work and without the foundation in quantum mechanics it is impossible to understand the absorption and emission of infrared radiation. I have been laboring through several of the papers that form the foundation that are used by the AGW community and have found that many of them do not say what it is claimed that they say. The best work in this area was actually done in the fifties and sixties and yet little of it has been applied to this modern era of computer analysis of the effect of CO2.”
Dennis, you’re not the only one who found out that Arrhenius didn’t say what some of the AGW community claim he said:
“Authors trace back their origins to the works of Fourier [37,38] (1824), Tyndall [39-43] (1861) and Arrhenius [44,46] (1896). A careful analysis of the original papers shows that Fourier’s and Tyndall’s works did not really include the concept of the atmospheric greenhouse eff ect, whereas Arrhenius’s work fundamentally di ffers from the versions of today.”
Quoted from Gerlich and Tscheuschner, Falsification of the Atmospheric CO2 Greenhouse Effects Within the Framework of Physics, P. 13, electronic version of an article published in International Journal of Modern Physics B, Vol. 23, No. 3 (2009) 275-364.
I haven’t read the whole paper (mainly because I don’t think I’ll understand it all), but these two German physicists are onto something.

Larry
December 27, 2009 10:18 pm

By the way, Willis, an excellent presentation. Very understandable for poor dumb laymen like me. Thanks very much.

dunbrokin
December 27, 2009 10:19 pm

It is the same in economics and politics….people seem to lack the ability to think about a problem in any depht…..they get to the first step and cannot go any further…real world analysis takes joined up thinking beyond this first stage….
For examples of this in economics and politics see Thomas Sowell “Knowledge and Decisions” and his “Applied Economics”.

Louis Hissink
December 27, 2009 10:23 pm

We have a rule of thumb in exploration geophysics – when the system becomes non-linear, all bets are off.

Clive
December 27, 2009 10:23 pm

Willis,
Thanks so much. I liked the “steel” block/human body comparison. Well done.
Thank you,
Clive

Richard Patton
December 27, 2009 10:30 pm

scienceofdoom (21:25:35) asked about whether climate is chaotic.
McIntyre posted the following regarding this question:
http://climateaudit.org/2005/10/09/weather-and-climatology-mandelbrots-view/

D.King
December 27, 2009 10:30 pm

We live on a liquid metallic ball,
covered by dirt and rock that moves,
surrounded by water,
encapsulated in a gas sphere,
spinning at over 1000 miles per hour, and wobbling,
hurtling around a sun, in a spinning galaxy, in an
expanding universe.
Simple physics!
P.S. I forgot CO2

Richard
December 27, 2009 10:31 pm

tom (21:09:47) : “..lack of total understanding does not mean that we can not derive some understanding from interaction of some of the basic variables.” No I agree with you there. Without going into the human body and sticking to climate and climate models we do understand that doubling of CO2 will cause the Earth to warm at equilibrium by about 1C, in a simple non-chaotic system, with no feedbacks.
“Doubling of CO2 may cause a 1 degree C temperature increase (no feedback case), or somewhere between 0.5 to less than 1degree C if the feedback is negative.”
What about the scenario that if the feedback is negative (and complex and not even fully known, such as cosmic rays, interplanetary dust, interstellar dust) doubling of CO2 can be accompanied by a cooling?
Consider this –
1. Anthropogenic “forcing” (warming) ~ 1.6 W/m2
2. Clouds (poorly understood) cooling ~ 30 W / m2
Get that “poorly understood” bit wrong and it will dwarf Anthropogenic 1.6 _ thats just one factor among many.
3. Climate has cyclical variations at temporal scales from decades, to centuries to millennia. We could look at smaller timescales and misinterpret whats happening on longer timescales.
Invariably in our climatic history the Earth has cooled while CO2 was rising and continued to rise. This shows that other negative factors seem to be larger than CO2 forcing

Gary Hladik
December 27, 2009 10:40 pm

tom (21:09:47) : “But lack of total understanding does not mean that we can not derive some understanding from interaction of some of the basic variables. I give you an example from two other comparably complex system.”
First, out of curiosity, how does one compare or rank the complexity of complex systems? Intuitively I would expect the earth’s climate system to be far more complex than a single human body, since as Willis pointed out, the entire biosphere (including countless human/non-human biological systems) is only one of several components.
Second, living creatures and market systems, of which we have multiple instances, would seem to be far easier to experiment on than the Earth itself, of which we have only one. It’s true we’re “experimenting” on the planet by adding various gasses and particles to the atmosphere and messing with its surface, but it’s hardly being done in a scientifically controlled way, and there are multiple “natural” experiments going on at the same time.

photon without a Higgs
December 27, 2009 10:40 pm

“As a scientist I do not have much faith in predictions. Science is organized unpredictability. The best scientists like to arrange things in an experiment to be as unpredictable as possible, and then they do the experiment to see what will happen. You might say that if something is predictable then it is not science. When I make predictions, I am not speaking as a scientist. I am speaking as a story-teller, and my predictions are science-fiction rather than science.”
from Freeman Dyson
http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/dysonf07/dysonf07_index.html

December 27, 2009 10:47 pm

Leif Svalgaard (20:40:16) :
“Unfortunately, while the physics is simple, the climate is far from simple
That is because the Earth basically is cold without being too cold. Heat it up enough [say to 10,000 degrees] or cool it a couple hundred degrees, and simple physics takes over.”
Oh you mean like a star or the sun? Simple physics, totally predictable????

Mike G
December 27, 2009 10:49 pm

JAC (20:35:19) :
“Correct me if I’m wrong … but in addition to the climate being a complex system, by itself, CO2 can only warm the planet by a limited amount due to the fact that additional warming reduces logarithmically in response to additional CO2. For a “catastrophic” temperature change additional positive feedback mechanisms are required that increase the climate system’s sensitivity to CO2.
My point is, that even simple physics says that CO2 has a limited warming effect, and that additional complexity (i.e. positive feedback mechanisms) must be introduced to get the sort of warming predicted by climate models. Is this correct?”
That’s what I’ve read here and other places. And, the magnitude of the imagined positive feedback component the warmists are counting on is almost completely developed in the area of science that has become questionable as a result of climate-gate. To me, this is the main significance of climate-gate. It’s why they are trying so hard to dismiss this and hoping nobody starts connecting the fact that all of the evidence for the positive feedbacks are tied to the “value added” temperature data and the very questionable proxy studies.

Greg
December 27, 2009 10:51 pm

Re: Chaos
Check out this book, by Glick: http://www.amazon.com/Chaos-Making-Science-James-Gleick/dp/0143113453/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1261982801&sr=8-1
By the way, human physiological processes are chaotic, at least in part.
As far as the simple physics goes, how about we include the following into our simple physics to get a more complete picture:
– Solar viariation
– Sunspots
– Other external factors, such as cosmic rays influencing cloud formation.
– Variations in planetary tilt and orbital distance from sun (Milankovitch cycles)
– The Greenhouse Effect, primarily water vapor driven.
– Various other greenhouse gases, of which CO2 might be the least important.
– Cyclical variations of winds and currents
– Heat and CO2 content of the oceans
– Ice albedo from poles and glaciers.
– Light absorbtion and reflection as land areas change color due to climate change and land use.
– Clouds
– CO2 scrubbing by forests
– Volcanoes and other geothermal activity
– Heat added to the ocean from underwater geo activity
– Geology (which changes over the millions of years.)
– Gravity?
– Land use leading to regional changes (eg: the heat island effect.)
– And probably a few other things
And then we add a little chaos… Yummy mix, hmm?

December 27, 2009 10:51 pm

Les Francis (22:06:09) :
Physics.
According to the laws of physics and aerodynamics, it is impossible for the humble bumblebee to fly.

Or the Hiller 23 helicopter. But no one bothered to inform the bumblebee, and the Hiller was flying successfully for seventeen years before some bright light “proved” that it was physically incapable of hovering, much less flying.
And learning to hover a Hiller required chaotic control application…

leftymartin
December 27, 2009 10:55 pm

Interesting post. Note that the Constructal Law bears a number of similarities to the Principle of Maximum Entropy Production, which is postulated to operate within the framework of non-equilibrium thermodynamics. As stated by Kleidon and Lorenz (2005), “at the state of Maximum Entropy Production, the atmospheric circulation responds primarily with negative feedbacks to external perturbations”. The principle of Maximum Entropy Production is the tendency of systems in steady state, but held away from equilibrium by an external input of energy, to produce entropy at the maximum possible rate. Expressed another way, “A system will select the path or assemblage of paths out of available paths that minimizes the potential or maximizes the entropy at the fastest rate given the constraints”. According to this principle, negative, not positive, feedbacks to external system perturbations are favoured (e.g. Ozawa et al., 2003). The Constructal Law also seems to infer that a flow system will tend to respond to perturbations (i.e. shortening the stream in your example) with negative feedbacks (i.e. lengthening it somewhere else).
The founder of the field of geotechnical engineering, Dr. Karl Terzaghi, is reputed to have made a statement that I think captures the silliness of the “simple radiative physics” being used in predicting the response of the complex system that is climate:
Nature has no contract with mathematics. She has even less of an obligation to laboratory test procedures and results.
References:
Kleidon, A. and R. Lorenz (2005). “Entropy production by earth system processes”, in Kleidon, A. and Lorenz, R. (eds.) “Non-Equilibrium Thermodynamics and the Production of Entropy”, Understanding Complex Systems, Springer Complexity, pp. 1-20.
Ozawa H., Ohmura, A., Lorenz, R.D. and T. Pujol (2003). “The second law of thermodynamics and the global climate system – a review of the maximum entropy production principle”, Rev. Geophys. 41:1018.

Margaret
December 27, 2009 10:55 pm

Thank you Willis, for a very clear explanation as to why increases in CO2 does not inevitably warm the planet. It is too simplistic and assumes that all other sources of heat input, absorption and radiation as well as pressure and volume remain constant over the entire earth. I read a blog which stated that it was obvious that temperature would rise in a garage if CO2 increased. I replied that the earth’s atmosphere is far more complex that a garage.

Mike G
December 27, 2009 11:04 pm

Willis,
Was “unbearable” a play on the titles of the most recent posts?

December 27, 2009 11:09 pm

What you propose is called independent and impartial thinking, Mr. Eschenbach.
Now, it may be assumed axiomatically that most scientists are human beings.
Multiple observations (history) show that human beings, in most cases, are guided by preconceived conclusions.
Their choice of preconceived conclusions depends on the source of funding.
Or, as folk wisdom puts it, “He who pays the piper, calls the tune.”
Depending on the complexity of the financing scheme and of the political situation of the moment, telling your bosses exactly what they want to hear may require some significant thinking.
That is the kind of thinking our publicly funded scientists (i.e. Dr. Hansen and Prof. Mann) are doing all the time.
What they do is called “politically correct science.”
Which means that what you propose (independent and impartial thinking) is entirely politically incorrect, runs against the public (government’s) interests and, as such, should be banned and persecuted.
You are an enemy of the people, Mr. Eschenbach.

Nigel S
December 27, 2009 11:12 pm

Gerhard Gerlich and Ralf D. Tscheuschner
Abstract
The atmospheric greenhouse effect, an idea that authors trace back to the traditional works of Fourier 1824, Tyndall 1861 and Arrhenius 1896 and is still supported in global climatology essentially describes a fictitious mechanism in which a planetary atmosphere acts as a heat pump driven by an environment that is radiatively interacting with but radiatively equilibrated to the atmospheric system. According to the second law of thermodynamics such a planetary machine can never exist. Nevertheless, in almost all texts of global climatology and in a widespread secondary literature it is taken for granted that such mechanism is real and stands on a firm scientific foundation. In this paper the popular conjecture is analyzed and the underlying physical principles are clarified. By showing that (a) there are no common physical laws between the warming phenomenon in glass houses and the fictitious atmospheric greenhouse effects, (b) there are no calculations to determine an average surface temperature of a planet, (c) the frequently mentioned difference of 33 C is a meaningless number calculated wrongly, (d) the formulas of cavity radiation are used inappropriately, (e) the assumption of a radiative balance is unphysical, (f) thermal conductivity and friction must not be set to zero, the atmospheric greenhouse conjecture is falsified

Bill Sticker
December 27, 2009 11:17 pm

Great analogy demonstrating how linear relationships are rarely found in a complex dynamic. Sweetly done Willis.

Doug
December 27, 2009 11:21 pm

You just explained why few geologists are AWG alarmists. It is assumed by some that they are all bought by big oil, but there is more to it than that.
thanks for the great post.

Stefan
December 27, 2009 11:22 pm

Perhaps the meandering rivers are interesting also because they illustrate:
– they appear to have a very obvious and striking pattern which is easy to recognise
– but the particular configuration of that pattern is highly unpredictable
Maybe this is a point which contributes to people’s sense that, because they can discern patterns in the statistics of weather, that they can therefore predict that weather. Well, we can predict that a river may meander, but anything more than that is really stretching things.
Perhaps there are certain key variables about the sun which can be used to predict certain aspects of Earth’s weather — perhaps — but we can only know by real world testing. Computer models are worse than useless, they are positively harmful; a huge distraction. Imagine they were used to model meandering rivers. The computer could draw always the same configuration. It would look real, because it meanders, but the real life river would meander in a completely different configuration. So then the modellers try an “ensemble” of models. Well that could give you an infinite number of possible configurations, in other words, no answer at all! So the modellers decide that certain categories of configurations are just far too unrealistic in their professional opinions. Whatever is left is the carefully researched peer reviewed and consistent prediction. Meanwhile the real river runs off in a different configuration. Scientists act “surprised”.
But the greater worry is perhaps that NGOs worldwide and the UN seem to belive that they can manipulate the world populations’ development along the lines of “simple physics”.
Like, educated women have fewer children so let’s educate women in underdeveloped countries, to help them develop sustainably.

RR
December 27, 2009 11:30 pm

How is it that alarmists can quote “simple physics” to prove AGW, when CO2 only makes up .003 parts of the atmosphere? What law of physics explains how .003 parts of a fluid can warm the other 99.997 parts? Seems like a serious case of the tail wagging the dog to me!

anna v
December 27, 2009 11:35 pm

This is the first time I encounter a “constructural law”. I am auditing a complexity and chaos interuniversity course and I will ask around :). I am all in favor of conservation laws, but need to see the theoretical proof so cannot have an opinion on this.
Roger Sowell (21:03:31) :
Several problems with this. First, rivers are non-steady-state, that is, they wax from high flow (Spring runoff), then ebb to low flow (late summer). The shape of a river is created much more by the high flow events than other flow regimes. Anyone who has lived near a river knows this.
Think again? What area dries out and how much and how hard during low flow should be equally significant to the the high flow effect, imo. All it takes is a tree trunk cutting the flow, and how the tree is snagged depends on how the previous bed dried etc. etc.

Alessandro
December 27, 2009 11:38 pm

Ok, I got it. You, sir, are a fictional character.
A guy with a penchant for lateral reasoning and exotic scientific theories. Eschenbach as in “Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid”: ESCHEr ‘N’ BACH.
See? See?

Paul Vaughan
December 27, 2009 11:40 pm

There’s nothing complex about climate.
It’s simple:
http://www.sfu.ca/~plv/QBOperiod.PNG
http://www.sfu.ca/~plv/QBO_fGLAAM_fLOD.png
(to be continued…)

Richard Patton
December 27, 2009 11:40 pm

jt (21:54:39) : said:
“People keep making the point that Climate is Chaotic as if that meant Climate is unpredictable on any scale. However, there are kinds of chaotic systems which operate around “attractors” so that they repeat their configurations in quasi-periodic fashion. I would be interested in comments from mathematically knowledgeable persons about whether such kinds of chaos have been found, or are likely to be found, in the systems which generate climate, and, if so, what kinds of quasi-periodicity have been found or are expected.”
Another way to look at this is that climate is made up of a myriad of self-similar processes. Self-similar processes exhibit Hurst-Kolmogorov (HK) pragmaticity (aka long term persistence (LTP)) and thus have varying means. That is, the average will wander around quite a bit – rather chaotically in fact. The best resource I have found on this is Demetris Koutsoyiannis. Here is one interesting presentation he did on this:
http://www.itia.ntua.gr/getfile/849/2/documents/2008EGU_HurstClimatePr.pdf
His general work can be found here: http://www.itia.ntua.gr/dk/
One of his papers was discussed at climate audit here: http://climateaudit.org/2008/07/29/koutsoyiannis-et-al-2008-on-the-credibility-of-climate-predictions/

Benjamin
December 27, 2009 11:43 pm

Wow! that was a pretty good explanation! (I bet the “consensus” couldn’t do a similar thought experiment to prove that their model and predictions are accurate!)
And there is irony, here. The truth about falsehood was revealed by simple physics, via what simple physics couldn’t reveal about the truth.
Or something like that (it’s early, and I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer to begin with, so if that sounded dumb… 🙂

tallbloke
December 27, 2009 11:44 pm

gtrip (20:00:23) :
Where do the proles fit in?

They get to dig the channels which divert the flow of money into the pockets of the rich.
Thanks Willis, great post.

gtrip
December 27, 2009 11:56 pm

Beware of becoming what you despise…and that’s all I got to say about that.

Dave vs Hal
December 27, 2009 11:57 pm

A complex system with negative feedbacks maintaining an equilibrium. Sounds suspiciously like the G… word (the earth behaving like a simple organism). Life co-evolved with this planet and it wouldn’t surprise me if some of the feedbacks are biological. Lovelock may one day be pardoned by the church of scepticism.

Michael
December 27, 2009 11:58 pm

I think we’re wearing out the evil doers and the people promoting evil deeds. I just get that feeling.

tallbloke
December 27, 2009 11:59 pm

jt (21:54:39) :
People keep making the point that Climate is Chaotic as if that meant Climate is unpredictable on any scale. However, there are kinds of chaotic systems which operate around “attractors” so that they repeat their configurations in quasi-periodic fashion. I would be interested in comments from mathematically knowledgeable persons about whether such kinds of chaos have been found, or are likely to be found, in the systems which generate climate, and, if so, what kinds of quasi-periodicity have been found or are expected.

In the very long term, the Earth seems to oscillate between two attractors which have average temperatures of 9C and 22C. It has oscillated between them about half a dozen times over the last 500M years.
In the longish term, it has oscillated between around 9C and 15C about 20 timesover the last 2 million years.
In the medium term it seems to have oscillated between around 11C and 14C around 5 times over the last 7 thousand years.
What will it do next?
Place bets now. 🙂

hotrod
December 28, 2009 12:00 am

Les Francis (22:06:09) :
Physics.
According to the laws of physics and aerodynamics, it is impossible for the humble bumblebee to fly.

NO you should have phrased it as :
Blockquote>According to (our understanding of) the laws of physics and aerodynamics, it is impossible for the humble bumblebee to fly.
It is not the laws of physics which are wrong the bumble bee did in fact fly, it was our lack of understanding of insect flight and how aerodynamic processes change in very small flight environments. Many insects use vortex generation to create lift not conventional airfoil lift generated by flow over a surface.
The problem of how the butterfly or bumble bee flies is a good example of how chaotic things get when you move outside of the domain your models have skill in. We can adequately model aerodynamic forces on conventionally constructed planes operating in well understood aerodynamic environments. When we push the envelope as we did passing into supersonic flight we had to learn some new rules to add to our formula.
There is no reason to think that the same applies when you go from a weather model which is competent at 3 days but is marginally competent at 10 days and totally worthless beyond 30 days. If the “climate models” cannot given the weather information existing in 2008 give a competent prediction for the the winter climate in 2009 why should we expect they can predict climate in 2109.
Larry

tallbloke
December 28, 2009 12:03 am

Dave vs Hal (23:57:26) :
A complex system with negative feedbacks maintaining an equilibrium. Sounds suspiciously like the G… word (the earth behaving like a simple organism). Life co-evolved with this planet and it wouldn’t surprise me if some of the feedbacks are biological. Lovelock may one day be pardoned by the church of scepticism.

Everyone interested in climate should read Lovelock’s first book. They might be pleasantly surprised as well as better informed.

gtrip
December 28, 2009 12:09 am

[please never post offensive tripe, such as that, again. ~ ctm]

Lindsay H
December 28, 2009 12:15 am

I see Nature is cerating some new jobs for a new publication Nature Climate Change and are looking for a Chief Editor & Associate Chief Editor
http://www.nature.com/naturejobs/science/jobs/122965-Chief-Editor-and-Associate-Editors-Nature-Climate-Change
Lets hope that some well rounded individuals with a working knowledge of WUWT gets the job and brings a good dose of scepticism to the new Mag.
Pigs might fly of course

Steve Hempell
December 28, 2009 12:18 am

Willis
“The IPCC says that if CO2 doubles, we will get a rise of around 3C in the global temperature. However, there is absolutely no evidence to support that claim, only computer models.”
According to this guy they are dead on – maybe even a bit more sensitive. Paleogeology (is there such a word?) seems to indicate it more and more. Care to comment?
http://www.agu.org/meetings/fm09/lectures/lecture_videos/A23A.shtml

pft
December 28, 2009 12:18 am

The article is right on. Climate is incredibly complex and we understand so little.
I believe Arrhenius main point coming out of the LIA was that a reduction in CO2 could bring about ice age temperatures.
Chemical methods used to measure CO2 in his day showed CO2 levels higher than today, but this may be due to an urban effect. Funny how nobody seems to measure CO2 in the cities to explain the UHI. I expect the results would be mnuch higher than MLO, located near a volcano and the largest COs source from the upwelling waters in the Pacific. So how do they reconcile the minimal weighting they give the UHI if results are 500 ppm or more.
I read one paper recently, not online though, where it was hypothesized that without mans CO2 we might be entering another ice age.
Models are only as accurate as the underlying assumptions, parameters and understanding of the science. Without validation, they are nothing more than fancy curve fitters who can only predict the past by tweaking the parameters, but not dependable enough to rely on for the future. Even the past they have trouble with, hence their best attempts to whitewash the MWP and LIA and send it down the memory hole.
Nigel S (23:12:24)
That papers online as a pdf file somewhere.

December 28, 2009 12:24 am

RR asked “How is it that alarmists can quote “simple physics” to prove AGW, when CO2 only makes up .003 parts of the atmosphere? What law of physics explains how .003 parts of a fluid can warm the other 99.997 parts? Seems like a serious case of the tail wagging the dog to me!”
Take a look at http://scienceofdoom.com/2009/11/28/co2-an-insignificant-trace-gas-part-one/ – the follow up post will be out shortly.
In brief, the argument from incredulity isn’t much help in working out the properties of molecules.
The fact that CO2 is only 0.04% of the atmosphere isn’t what determines how much radiation it absorbs. The wavelengths of long wave radiation – the earth radiates longwave – that each and every gas in the atmosphere absorbs and re-emits is incontrovertible physics. The very same absorption that is measured in the lab can be seen at the top of the atmosphere by satellite measurement.
It might seem like “the tail wagging the dog”, but CO2 absorbs radiation at 4.26, 7.52 and 14.99μm. Water vapor and methane gases absorb at other frequencies.
Can a tiny amount of cyanide kill someone? Can a tiny spark cause a big explosion? Can a gas which is 0.04% of the atmosphere cause 25% of the “greenhouse effect”?
Yes.

gtrip
December 28, 2009 12:24 am

tallbloke (00:03:27) :
Shouldn’t it be Talk Bloke? You think that fighting windmills is the right path?

Peter Melia
December 28, 2009 12:25 am

If you google “Constructal Law”, and go to Wikipedia, you come across an “allometric law of cruising speed vs body mass”. This shows that the bigger a thing, the faster it can comfortably fly (=cruise). Now, speed record attemptists (?) routinely reduce mass to the minimum achievable, to go faster, but this new law says the opposite. Horse racing authorities routinely load up faster horses in order to make them go slower. Have they got it wrong?
This is not, of course connected with climate change, but it is Christmas after all.
Peter Melia

tallbloke
December 28, 2009 12:25 am

Paul Vaughan (23:40:54) :
http://www.sfu.ca/~plv/QBO_fGLAAM_fLOD.png

Interesting Hiccup in the early-mid ’70’s Paul.

joshua corning
December 28, 2009 12:25 am

Sounds suspiciously like the G… word (the earth behaving like a simple organism).
Does the fact that Venus has the same atmospheric temperature on its dark side that it has on it sunward side sound like a rock at the bottom of canyon or an adaptive self correcting system?
Does such a distinction even matter?
Also it would seem we run into the anthropic principle here as well. Sure it seems kind of odd that our atmosphere might behave like an organism. Of course if it our planet did not act that way, with an adaptive atmosphere that actively preserves a steady state of mild temperatures over multiple millennia, then it would not be able to evolve life on it to begin with. If the earth’s climate were fragile we would not exist.

Nigel S
December 28, 2009 12:27 am

Willis Eschenbach (23:38:55) :
Nigel S (23:12:24)
Gerhard Gerlich and Ralf D. Tscheuschner
First thank you Willis for all your intersting articles and for standing up to the bullying elsewhere.
My cut and paste (sorry I was repairing my keyboard after spilling wine on it) was a comment on the ‘indisputable “simple physics”‘ when the settled assumptions are (I believe) wrong. I think Gerlich and Tscheuschner are right when they talk about a perpetual motion machine in the standard radiative balance calculations but I can see that I shall have to get out my thermodynamics text books and notes.

Lindsay H
December 28, 2009 12:33 am

new scientist had a recent piece on
http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn18301-five-laws-of-human-nature.html
and I had to laugh at the thought of Parkinson & the Copenhaen conference!!
“Parkinson also came up with the “law of triviality”, which states that the amount of time an organisation spends discussing an issue is inversely proportional to its importance. He argued that nobody dares to expound on important issues in case they’re wrong – but everyone is happy to opine at length about the trivial.”
40000 trivialists at copenhagen!
“This in turn may be a result of Sayre’s law, which states that in any dispute, the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the stakes at issue.”
and dont the NGO”s know it!
Parkinson also proposed a coefficient of inefficiency, which attempts to define the maximum size a committee can reach before it becomes unable to make decisions. His suggestion that it lay “somewhere 19.9 and 22.4” has stood the test of time: more recent research suggests that committees cannot include many more than 20 members before becoming utterly hapless.

December 28, 2009 12:39 am

tom wrote:
“…we can predict with a relatively high degree of confidence that overeating will lead to obesity and starvation will lead health problems and possibly death.”
This counter analogy does not support AGW theory.
Reducing food intake to reduce obesity is akin to reducing CO2 to reduce global warming. But reducing food intake does not reduce obesity. Calorie restriction diets are very well known to fail quite miserably except during a short period of extremely uncomfortable food rationing known as hunger. The vast majority of people cannot cope long and once they end the diet their obesity and metabolic tendency towards it tends to get worse than before. Rationing CO2 is likely to have a similarly bad long term effect on society when enough people who lack energy start experiencing food rationing otherwise known as starvation. In both cases the best answer for most is not passive restriction of intake but the build up of lost muscle mass, one being physical exercise and the other being nuclear power and then fusion energy.

December 28, 2009 12:40 am

Thanks to Willis and Richard Patton for alerting me to the ClimateAudit discussion which I have taken a look at (and the discussion that followed).
Is there more out there on this topic? I’d expect that some mathematically included people have analyzed the available proxies – temperature at least – across different time periods and formed some tentative conclusions.

gtrip
December 28, 2009 12:43 am

Does nobody here want to make history?……….I thought not.

Lindsay H
December 28, 2009 12:44 am

scienceofdoom (21:25:35) :
“—Chaotic, most people know but not everyone, means that the system is not random it is deterministic, but very small changes in initial conditions cause totally different outcomes. Therefore, chaotic systems under certain circumstances are impossible to model.
http://scienceofdoom.com
REPLY: “weather” is known to be chaotic. Climate is a long term collection of weather events, so it stands to reason that it is also chaotic, but on a longer, slower time scale. – Anthony”
Not sure I entirely agree with Anthony : I think a more accurate statement might be that Climate is Stochastic rather than Chaotic.

gtrip
December 28, 2009 12:48 am

Man, I wish I had a bucket of cheerys.

jerry
December 28, 2009 1:07 am

A micro-scale chaotic system does not mean that a macro-scale chaotic system is as well.
There are many examples of this in nature. Fluid flow is a good example. The flow can become chaotic over a certain Reynold’s number, but the macro flow is entirely predictable – if inefficient. bumble-bee flight springs to mind.
The example of the river meander is the classic. The meanders are chaotic, but the mean of the meanders is highly predictable – the total river length becomes pi x crowflight length (?) and the gradient is continuously refined to a well known curve.
I’m also not sure that larger scale weather is chaotic either. The numerical models do a pretty good job now – out to a week.

Louis Hissink
December 28, 2009 1:18 am

Willis Eschenbach (22:50:25) :
Willis, yo, realised that hence my raising of it separately.
I am not sure most here actually understand the difficulties using the scientific method on chaotic systems either, because in order to make measurements, the thing being observed needs to be somewhat predictable within a useable time-frame.
Take a dust devil – a small scale cyclonic peturbation of air which darts about unpredictably on the Earth’s surface. While I look in awe at these things when out in the field doing my day job (basically drilling holes into geophysical targets for minerals), trying to work out how to get a measurement of it’s electrical properties is night well impossible – the dang thing won’t stand still, for a start.
So empirically chaotic systems are inherently difficult to collect data from except in a more remote genalised way. Hence doing empirical science on these system seems fraught with almost unsolvable difficulties.
Dust devils – these things, from the Plasma Model, are small electrical powered cyclonic perturbations the Earth’s electric field, and become visible from the dust sucked off the land surface. But how do you then take measurements of an object that behaves chaotically, and refuses to stand still? And scaling up to a tornado, well, an added complexity appears in that while taking physical measurements of a phenomenon that, because of scaling factors, becomes a little more predictable in movement, becomes extremely hazardous to life, especially the scientist making the observations. (And given the paranoia over work place safety these days, what professional scientist would be permitted to do such foolish things such as measure the electric field of a tornado).
Climate science seems to have found itself in a conceptual cul-de-sac in which as in situ meaurements seem impossible, progress is then diverted into the deductive method based on “consensual” assumptions and quickly develops into a dogma.
After all, climate sensitivity has yet to be empirically verified.
Incidentally a greenhouse effect is theory of last resort for a science that ignores the role of electricity in the operation of the cosmos, (and solar system). I’m not diminishing the role of water in this process, just the idea that other “gases” are needed to explain the observations in the absence of electricity. Add electricity and the need for a green house gas becomes irrelevant.

Allan M R MacRae
December 28, 2009 1:31 am

Hi tallbloke (00:03:27) :
See the 15fps AIRS data animation of global CO2 at
http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/vis/a000000/a003500/a003562/carbonDioxideSequence2002_2008_at15fps.mp4
It is difficult to see the impact of humanity in this impressive display of nature’s power.
Still, annual CO2 concentration keeps increasing at ~1.5ppm/year – even as CO2 fluctuates by up to 16ppm/year in its natural seasonal sawtooth pattern. This 1.5ppm/year could be a manmade component (or not).
I pointed out two years ago that that global CO2 lags temperature by about 9 months in a cycle time of ~3-6 years.
We also know that CO2 lags temperatrue by ~800 years in a cycle time of ~100,000 years
There may be other intermediate cycles as well – Ernst Beck postulates one.
A fine puzzle for someone to sort out.
Veizer and Shaviv may have already done so.
Best wishes to all for the Holidays!

John Doe
December 28, 2009 1:37 am

The modelers admit that climate is chaotic. You can read it from e.g. IPCC AR4GW1 chapter 8. Google brings up this http://climateprediction.net/content/modelling-climate.
Their solution to the chaotic behavior of the climate is to use models ensembles where small variations are in the initial state and parameters are done to produce a distribution of projections. OK, so for, but it is impossible to know what trajectory the reality takes. The distribution of the projections is actually created by the programmers/scientists who decide what variations they will use. Statistical measures like ensemble mean and distribution cannot be used in their traditional way to give probable values and confidence intervals.
Modelers admit that there is a lot that we don’t know, but the climate politicians don’t. Our job is now to bring the message of the scientists to those who make political decisions.

December 28, 2009 1:44 am

For me, the simplest falsification of the whole CO2 theory is Arctic. Arctic has dry and cold air, so the “greenhouse effect” should be strengthened by increase of CO2 much more than in warmer latitudes. Also, at low temps. the absorption-emission is much more effective.
But real arctic temperatures show no net increase since 40ties, except regular ups and downs, tied to AMO. Even 1860s are similar to present. What more, the curve heads down again.
http://climexp.knmi.nl/data/icrutem3_hadsst2_0-360E_70-90N_na.png

Stefan
December 28, 2009 1:50 am

“The constructal way of distributing the system’s imperfection is to put the more resistive regime at the smallest scale of the system.”
Does this mean that, instead of trying to figure out subtle feedbacks, we ought to start by looking at where the biggest energy flows are?
With the river, the length and the volume of water are its key things, and then there is some optimal path which it can meander around but never achieve.
What are the biggest and main energy flows of the planet, and what would their ideal configuration be? Are ice ages simply one variation of its architecture?
I am not a scientist (IANAS) but it is intuitively fascinating.

December 28, 2009 2:02 am

Isn’t this something like Miskolsczi’s theory? There’s a maximum value for the warming by all greenhouse gases based on the energy input into the system?

Pippa Biggs
December 28, 2009 2:07 am

Thanks for a very interesting article. I take your main point that the climate is hugely complex; however, I fail to grasp the parallels between flow models of river systems and modelling the climate, other than that nature is very complex & continues to defy our best attempts to understand it!
In this case, Larry/Hotrod is exactly right – simply because our understanding is limited and our best models fail to “explain” climate change, does that mean we should sit around and wait until our understanding of science catches up with reality? Or are we better off planning for the worst case scenario and taking personal initiatives to try and limit the damage we are doing to the planet, which is visible on many levels?
Personally, I am basing my behaviour on my personal observations (the European glaciers are melting fast and most will be gone within 100 years – as are the glaciers in the National Park near Seattle). The seasons are totally mixed up now, with temperatures bouncing around + or – 10 degrees from one day to the next. The planet has never suffered the burden of 6.8 billion human inhabitants before, so whatever ‘natural’ equilibrium systems operated in the past (forests as carbon sinks, algal blooms, ocean reserves, polar ice – the theories differ etc.) are very likely to be interfered with by man’s activities.
I understand that you have huge unspoilt areas and nature reserves in the USA, so you may be less likely to believe in real & tangible climate change in the States. But in hot & crowded Europe, we see it all around us – from the lack of bumble bees in summer to the dramatic collapse of natural populations of chamois, marmottes and forests. I do not want to sit and wait for the consequences – I should like to try to take whatever small action I can on a personal level to try and play my part & make my contribution to preserving an Earth worth living in for the next generation! And wait until scientists can catch up… and wait… and wait…

Mike McMillan
December 28, 2009 2:07 am

Les Francis (22:06:09) :
… According to the laws of physics and aerodynamics, it is impossible for the humble bumblebee to fly

Bill Tuttle (22:51:30) :
Or the Hiller 23 helicopter. But no one bothered to inform the bumblebee, and the Hiller was flying successfully for seventeen years before some bright light “proved” that it was physically incapable of hovering, much less flying.
And learning to hover a Hiller required chaotic control application…

The aerodynamic lift that keeps the bumblebee flying isn’t generated in the same manner as your typical airplane, where the higher speed flow over the top of the wing lowers the pressure there.
The rapid forward and aft beats of the insect’s wing produced very localized turbulent eddies that do the lifting. Can’t comment on the Hiller, but anything with that many moving parts shouldn’t be flying. Not in civilized society, anyway.
Those turbulent eddies would fall in the chaotic category, even though they are regular enough to dependably get billions of bugs airborne. Sort of quantum aerodynamics.
A major part of the AGW political problem is the ~30 year definition of climate, when the full cycle runs twice that. Right about the time in the 70’s when we were worrying about the coming ice age, the warming phase was starting. Now that we’re worrying about the world overheating, and we’ve entered the cooling phase. It doesn’t help to have GISS and CRU sexing up the numbers, either.

December 28, 2009 2:09 am

Willis, I suspect this presentation is imprecise in this respect: it implicitly assumes small changes in CO2 concentration. If you were to add a lot of CO2, say doubling or trebling the concentration of CO2, then I’m willing to bet there would be a substantial observed warming. This would be like, in your river analogy, to substantially increasing the flow of water or some how significantly increasing the gradient.

Baa Humbug
December 28, 2009 2:24 am

If as RealClimate claims, climate is NOT chaotic, then it should be easier to understand and predict. Despite over 20yrs of intensive research by “thousands” of scientists backed by billions of dollars, and sattelites, and super dooper computers, they are no where near being able to predict anything. Not climate, not even weather any more than 3 or 4 days out.
But if they were to remove their heads out of their rears, and really studied the large external forces which drive our climate, they may stand a chance to predict the smaller forces we call weather.
They don’t even have to predict all weather, just the less than 1% portion of weather we call extreme.
Afterall, climate isn’t going to hurt us, it’s the smaller forces climate creates (cyclones, flooding rains, extended periods of drought etc) we call extreme weather that hurts us and costs us in economic terms.
So these wags can’t predict anything to do with climate a month out, a year out, yet we are to believe they can predict 100 years out.
Gimme a break

December 28, 2009 2:27 am

Don’t forget, the complexity includes LIFE – a dynamic response system in itself. Oceans are full of plant and animal life. Vegitation covers significant areas of land masses.
Life is that force which disobeys physics and seems to find a way, in spite of…

December 28, 2009 2:31 am

Seems I skipped past some similar discussion, about life…
I do not apologize for the “G..” word. You cannot prove there is no God.

Alexander Vissers
December 28, 2009 2:38 am

From most comment posts one might conclude that the discussion is about physics. It is not. It’s about ethics, and as we all know when ethics and politics meet, guess who prevails.
The initial quotes in this post are all telling: researchers are not criticised for research on the basic greenhouse gas qualities of CO2 (undisputed) but e.g. for research on pre-historic (as far as thermometrie goes) temperature trends (Climategate). They are criticised for drawing conclusions with fargoing consequences based on an insolid scientific basis, keeping data away from the public.
“The important thing is, that we know how greenhouse gasses affect climate” is an ill faith comment; the important thing is that we do not have a clue how changes in antropogenic CO2 exhaust affect climate, that we still do not understand the heat balance in the oceans that we have only recently started to collect usefull data on ocean temperatures at different dephts. Data is sparse, insufficient, wanting and inconclusive whereas polar bears are quite abundant.
Meanwhile, do not spill fuell, the science on the limitation of terrestrial oil reserves is settled.

Thomas J. Arnold.
December 28, 2009 2:40 am

Smokey (20:04:30) :
“Where do the proles fit in?”
“Everyone has a job in the new world order. The job of the proles is to pay the freight.”
Pithy and to the point and I totally agree.
We are as ever……. merely cannon fodder.

December 28, 2009 2:43 am

Paul Vaughan (23:40:54) :
“There’s nothing complex about climate.”
Hi Paul
I posted these two charts on the ‘fluffy interstellar cloud’ thread:
http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/LOD-GMF.gif
http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/SSN-GMF.gif

Mooloo
December 28, 2009 3:00 am

In the first example Willis showed that human’s like all mammals regulate their own temperatures. I assume we do not call the regulation of internal temperature by mammals chaotic.
Of course we do, when measured in the short term, if we don’t know exactly what the body is doing and why but only rely on temperature. A body temperature rises and falls all the time, with eating and sleeping and exercise and excitement all affecting it. Only if it is greatly out of the unusual for a long period of time do we raise an eyebrow.
It is surely the same with the earth. We know sometimes why it is hotter or colder (el nino, pinatubo) and we don’t know sometimes. The arguments over climate change surely are:
— are we at an unusual point?
— is this a short or long term rise?
— can we reliably predict the cause?
With a chemistry degree my argument is that saying “climate change is simple physics” is the same as saying “medicine is simple chemistry”.

Geoff Sherrington
December 28, 2009 3:02 am

Re Tom
You say “chemical reaction involving the food, chemicals and enzymes generated by our bodies and other organisms that live in our digestive system. While these processes are incredible (sic) complex and our understanding of them is by no means complete we can predict with a relatively high degree of confidence that overeating will lead to obesity and starvation will lead health problems and possibly death.”
This does not subtract from the arguments posed by Willis. It adds support to them. You are merely stating some boundary conditions.
Our understanding of human nutrition is so poor that we have people making a mint from nebulous things called “anti-oxidants” and overdoses of potentially harmful goods like many vitamins and diluted potions of no sense at all used in homeopathy. In the pure examples from Willis, there is no diversionary thread of exploitation and humbuggery, yet the point is made absolutely clearly.
It was a delight to read the lead article. I envisage those towering masses of clouds rising much higher than the bizjet at 50,000 feet, replete with turbulence and heat transfer that has a low probability of a proper model.

December 28, 2009 3:03 am

Counter analogies to AGW alarmism are nice to ponder. Positive feedback analogies exist too.
Rev your parked car right up to the red line. It will likely survive as long as then temperature light doesn’t come on. Rev it up just a bit more and boom, your radiator vents and the engine dies. AGW alarmists claim the earth’s temperature light has been ominously flickering for thousands of years, despite clear evidence of hot spikes over the last 10K years that dwarf the controversial Medieval and Roman humps (http://wattsupwiththat.files.wordpress.com/2009/04/lanser_holocene_figure5.png). There’s nothing special about CO2 in AGW theory. They seem to claim that no temperature rise of any cause can be a mild one.
It’s curious since Tipping Point theory does resemble a chaos theory. Non-linear positive feedback is required since simple positive feedback is a ridiculous idea, since if any temperature increase is amplified then logically that amplified rise will itself be amplified since an amplified rise in temperature is just like any other increase in temperature. It’s confusing.
The only support I can imagine for it is the evident ice core fact that CO2 has been rising sharply for the last 10K years on its own, so really did start out at its naturally maximum value when the Industrial Revolution kicked in, so former hot spikes did not occur when CO2 was yet very high. I guess that’s why more recent warm periods are so important to the debate.

Turboblocke
December 28, 2009 3:04 am

WE says, “The IPCC says that if CO2 doubles, we will get a rise of around 3C in the global temperature. However, there is absolutely no evidence to support that claim, only computer models.”
No: there’s data from the instrumental record, current data, volcanic eruptions, the last glacial minimum and proxy data.
Here’s a link to some papers:http://agwobserver.wordpress.com/2009/11/05/papers-on-climate-sensitivity-estimates/

Paul Hildebrandt
December 28, 2009 3:06 am

Roger Sowell (21:03:31) :
Third, it is puzzling that climate is described as a flow. While it is true that some portions of the earth do flow (atmosphere via winds, and vertically via thermals, also ocean currents and icebergs, etc), as a whole the earth is not flowing anywhere.
Actually, the earth is flowing, and has been since Day 1. It’s called Plate Tectonics. Although not flowing at incredible speeds, the continents and oceanic basins are moving on a conveyor belt of sorts. Also, if you want to break it down even further, colliding continents are pushed up, oceanic basins are subducted down, rock is eroded and flows downstream as sediment, mass earth movements, and even in the atmosphere as dust. So, I would reevaluate your statement in light of the above.
Louis Hissink (22:15:02) :
“A lot of hydrothermal activity goes on at these spreading centers. The process involves downward migration of ocean water through the broken basalt along the flanks of the spreading centers and expulsion of that water as heated, mineral-rich hydrothermal fluids adjacent to the spreading axis in a continuous flow.”
Er, no, the water cycle as envisaged by standard plate tectonics theory requires the suspension of gravity for starters, (less dense matter cannot descend into more dense matter), and it is more likely that the water coming out of the spreading ridges comes from the asthenosphere itself. Remember that igenous quartz crystals of the milky white color contain water in their crystal lattices – quartz without water is transparent – like a wine glass or the glass thermometer Willis used in his personalised experiment.
Not quite true. The subducting basalt and sediment (sediments are also subducted, although not in the same quantities as basalt) are normally rich in hydrous minerals and clays. During the transition from basalt to eclogite, these hydrous materials break down, producing copious quantities of water, which at such great pressure and temperature exists as a supercritical fluid. The supercritical water, which is hot and more buoyant than the surrounding rock, rises into the overlying mantle where it lowers the melting temperature of the mantle rock to the point of actual melting, generating magma.

Rhys Jaggar
December 28, 2009 3:14 am

Will you explain all this to:
1. The carbon credit traders and their trading platform providers;
2. The MSM’s funders;
3. Politicians who need to control people by blaming them;
4. Scientists whose publication record is mostly asserting things you have described as incorrect here;
5. Education ministers the world over who think dynamic system engineering concepts should never be taught at school.
Many thanks for a very interesting article.
Happy New Year to all WUWT staff.

Alan
December 28, 2009 3:21 am

@ScienceofDoom
It is true that if you have a very simple chaotic system like the logistic map, the long run behaviour / average is predictable – called the invariant density. But that assumes that the parameters of the system are constant. If you start twiddling with the parameters, then the long run average is also unpredictable ! So not only is the weather chaotic, but if you have all these parameters changing such as CO2, solar flux, and god knows what else, then the climate itself has no long run average either.

Marcus
December 28, 2009 3:22 am

Roger Sowell
“Having some experience with design and control of heat transfer systems, including those at steady state and non-steady state, my conclusion is that Constructal Law has nothing to do with it.”
When the only tool you have is a hammer, every job looks like a nail!

Julian in Wales
December 28, 2009 3:22 am

Thank you, I will store a copy of this article because it puts across a complex scientific message in language that I and my friends can easily cope with.
I really useful service for those that want to understand the science behind the sceptics case against the hysterical outpouring in the media that the world is heating up because of C02 emissions, but do not always have the scientific and mathematical where-with-all to fully understand many of the posting on this site.

Patrik
December 28, 2009 3:23 am

Wow! This is the best problem description on climate research I’ve ever comeback across!
Should be made an article in all major news papers around the globe! Thanks Will!

December 28, 2009 3:46 am

Mike McMillan (02:07:43) :
Can’t comment on the Hiller, but anything with that many moving parts shouldn’t be flying. Not in civilized society, anyway.
My instructor’s theory was that the OH-23’s vibrations were so annoying that the earth rejected it.

Sordnay
December 28, 2009 3:50 am

“People seriously believe that a change of X in the forcings will lead inevitably to a chance of A * X in the temperature.”
I think I do find a correlation between CO2 and Temperature:
http://www.woodfortrees.org/plot/esrl-co2/mean:24/derivative/scale:7.7/offset:-0.853/mean:12/plot/hadcrut3vgl/mean:1/from:1959.8
Of course it’s adjusted by the slope and offset to be similar, in fact to match the linear trend between 1965 to the end, as for the first years there’s a big discrepancy.
There are other areas with high error, between both trends, as around 1993 (Pinatubo effects?) but I think they look quite similar.

henry
December 28, 2009 3:51 am

Greg (22:51:14) :
“As far as the simple physics goes, how about we include the following into our simple physics to get a more complete picture:
(list followed)”
Something else that struck me was a thought about lightning; If passage of lightning causes molecules to un-bond or re-bond (creation of ozone), what effect would it have on CO2?
If increased atmospheric temps are going to cause more severe weather (with increased lightning), would this increased electrical activity break down CO2 as well?
Anybody know experiments have been done concerning this?
This could be one of Nature’s “tricks” to reduce pollutants in the atmosphere.

December 28, 2009 3:51 am

OK. I get what is being said here. This is a very good piece and the reason I read this site is because although most of the time I don’t agree, it’s thought-provoking.
But the part about the climate of planet earth not being in equilibrium? How do we know that? Isn’t the case being made by the AGW side that it IS in balance and that the additional CO2 is throwing it out of balance resulting in the behavior described?
“Final conclusion? Because climate is a flow system far from equilibrium, it is ruled by the Constructal Law. As a result, there is no physics-based reason to assume that increasing CO2 will make any difference to the global temperature”
Quite a conclusion! I am not seeing how the piece actually links the well-described and very interesting Contructal Law, but it doesn’t really link this law to climate. The conclusion simply doesn’t follow.
Enquiring AGW but open-minded people- like me- want to know how this thinking pieces together. It’s too important.
Thanks.

Stefan
December 28, 2009 3:53 am

Pippa Biggs wrote:
The planet has never suffered the burden of 6.8 billion human inhabitants before, so whatever ‘natural’ equilibrium systems operated in the past (forests as carbon sinks, algal blooms, ocean reserves, polar ice – the theories differ etc.) are very likely to be interfered with by man’s activities.

Pippa, I don’t get the distinction between “man” and “nature”. Do we say that giraffes “interfere” with trees on the savannah? That grazing animals interfer with plants? We are nature. Humans are nature. Nature made us. We happen to be conscious of that fact, but our somewhat rudimentary intelligence doesn’t change that fact.
Now in nature, if a species hits limits, then that species’ numbers get reduced. But they could also be reduced by disease. By lots of things.
So the question is, what are you trying to conserve, really? You say you want to preserve an Earth worth living in. Well if changes in climate worry you, then I’m guessing you’d like a comfortable Earth, a pleasant habitat. Well again this is where I don’t understand the picture. Most of our comfortable lives are the result of material advances as we prigressed out of poverty and feudal societies. We are modern, fairly free, democracies with free time because of labour saving machines. Even ancient tribal societies were either matriarchal or patriarchal based on whether the type of plough they used was light enough to be handled by a woman bearing children. So again, I don’t get the picture. Our life quality and that of our children is a question of powerful technology. Doing a bit if conservation isn’t going to make any difference when another few billion people are born. Only technology of a greater power than we have ever seen can provide for the existing poor of the world.

Allan M
December 28, 2009 3:53 am

It has been understood for a long time that a small difference in input values can result in large differences in output values (LORENZ, Edward N. 1963. Deterministic nonperiodic flow. Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences 20: 130-141.). Lorenz maintained that it is impossible to know the initial state values with enough accuracy to predict the outcome. However, I would ask if, in a continuous system, is there even an initial state at all? Or is it just our convenience? The modern approach is just ‘buy a bigger computer,’ but this doesn’t work, as the derived values diverge with each iteration. All that happens is that we get the wrong answers faster.
This was also discovered decades earlier by Henri Poincaré (1854-1912) (Les Méthodes nouvelles de la mécanique céleste, 3 vol. (1892, 1893, 1899; “The New Methods of Celestial Mechanics”), who also substituded approximations to speed his calculations, and got some wild results. Lorenz probably didn’t know of Poincaré’s work, as it wasn’t translated into English until the 1970’s, when it became useful to NASA. Established science (and math)? Maybe some were ahead of Arrhenius.
————
gtrip (20:00:23) :
Where do the proles fit in?
I’ve noticed that when we disagree with them we cease to be the proletariat, and become the ‘brainwashed masses!’
jorgekafkazar (20:31:08) :
north prole at the top, south prole at the bottom.
Good one. Come back Chico Marx, all is forgiven.
Taxes? I got a brother lives in Taxes.
No, Ravelli, taxes is about dollars.
Yeh. That’s where he lives – Dollars, Taxes.

December 28, 2009 4:02 am

Willis
Nice article.
The oldest coherent reference to the CO2 theory that I have seen was in an 1912 article where it described co2 as a ‘girdle’ encircling the earth. The greater the concentration the thicker the ‘girdle’ would become. However it said that excess heat was still able to disperse into space.
I wondered if there were any figures showing what % of heat ‘escapes’ into space at say 380ppm compared to 280ppm?
Tonyb

December 28, 2009 4:08 am

WIKI HAS DELETED CLIMATEGATE PAGE! DELETION UNDER REVIEW FOR SHENANNIGANS! PLZ HELP SAVE CLIMATEGATE PAGE!
http://magicjava.blogspot.com/2009/12/climategate-page-deleted-from-wikipedia.html

henry
December 28, 2009 4:09 am

Re; above comment.
From Wikipedia:
“Ozone may be formed from O2 by electrical discharges and by action of high energy electromagnetic radiation.”
So again, would CO2 break down cause ozone creation?
Also, then, are the new hybrids/electric cars better? Low CO2 emissions, but increased ozone creation from the electric motors?
Also from Wikipedia:
“Although ozone was present at ground level before the Industrial Revolution, peak concentrations are now far higher than the pre-industrial levels, and even background concentrations well away from sources of pollution are substantially higher.
This increase in ozone is of further concern because ozone present in the upper troposphere acts as a greenhouse gas, absorbing some of the infrared energy emitted by the earth. Quantifying the greenhouse gas potency of ozone is difficult because it is not present in uniform concentrations across the globe.
However, the most widely accepted scientific assessments relating to climate change (e.g. the IPCC Third Assessment Report) suggest that the radiative forcing of tropospheric ozone is about 25% that of carbon dioxide.”
So SOME of the Global Warming is caused by increased OZONE. No call to regulate that, though.

Vincent
December 28, 2009 4:13 am

Pippa Biggs,
“I do not want to sit and wait for the consequences – I should like to try to take whatever small action I can on a personal level to try and play my part & make my contribution to preserving an Earth worth living in for the next generation!”
Even if such action comprises burning down rainforests to grow palm oil for biodiesel? And even if such action has, by IPCC’s own figures, a negligible effect on global temperatures?

December 28, 2009 4:14 am

MORE ATTEMPTS TO BLOCK SKEPTICS FROM POSTING TO WIKI TOO! PLZ HELP!
http://magicjava.blogspot.com/2009/12/climategate-page-deleted-from-wikipedia.html

P Wilson
December 28, 2009 4:17 am

Fine exposition, Willis.
All I have to say is that the “consensus” and the IPCC make it up as they go along. One aspect is fairly certain: Climate change has very little towards nothing to do with c02, yet it is the most dominant parameter of AGW. As R Lindzen maintains: its a framed up culprit (c02) since it goes after people, puts the blame on them and so people are likewise framed up, so as to be punished, taxed and fined.
In other words, since the ideology isn’t accountable neither are the statisticians – I don’t like to call them scientists – and politicians behind the ideology. Its like a throwback to the 1930’s when communism and fascist ideologies put the blame on man as the great fault of civilisation, so people ought to be bent to the ideologies of political extremes to save them and civilisation.
That seems to be the way its developing as an ideology

jamesafalk
December 28, 2009 4:21 am

In reading this post I immediately thought of my area of specialty- economics- and my belief that most economics vastly under-models the complexity of emergent and chaotic systems, and operates at a level of mathematics that comforts those that seek certainty but annoys those that seek truth.
I’m about to go looking, but does anyone have Constructal Law application in the field of economics?

rbateman
December 28, 2009 4:21 am

The Unbearable Complexity of Climate.
Exceeded only by the Unbearably Absurd Linear Climate Predictions of the IPCC and their list of clueless subscribers of the models.
If ever there was a clear choice of agencies to cut funding for, the subscribers have recently stuck out like a sore thumb.

P Wilson
December 28, 2009 4:26 am

to be clear: Climate is now the great menace or boon, as the case may be, since civilisation has exhausted every other conceivable ideology and political creed.
It seems people en masse need a cause and a doom scenario that can be fought for, whether imaginary or not, although the purpose is generaly considered to be finer than the reality behind it.

Galen Haugh
December 28, 2009 4:28 am

Originally I stated:
“A lot of hydrothermal activity goes on at these spreading centers. The process involves downward migration of ocean water through the broken basalt along the flanks of the spreading centers and expulsion of that water as heated, mineral-rich hydrothermal fluids adjacent to the spreading axis in a continuous flow.”
Which got this response:
Louis Hissink (22:15:02) :
“Er, no, the water cycle as envisaged by standard plate tectonics theory requires the suspension of gravity for starters, (less dense matter cannot descend into more dense matter), and it is more likely that the water coming out of the spreading ridges comes from the asthenosphere itself. Remember that igenous quartz crystals of the milky white color contain water in their crystal lattices – quartz without water is transparent – like a wine glass or the glass thermometer Willis used in his personalised experiment…”
So my responses are:
Response: Any theory that requires “suspension of gravity for starters” is a non-starter; it obviously doesn’t apply to the real world. Basalt formed and cooled at the spreading ridges is highly fractured and very porous (remember columnar basalt?)—the seawater in which it finds itself is heavier than this same water that is heated by contact with the hot or molten basalt, which sets up major convective cells involving seawater.
Response: If “it is more likely that the water coming out of the spreading ridges comes from the asthenosphere itself”, the volume of the ocean would double in about 8 million years, which flat out doesn’t happen.
Response to: “Remember that igenous quartz crystals of the milky white color contain water in their crystal lattices”. Problem with that argument is that mid-oceanic ridge basalt (MORB) contains precious little quartz (they are unsaturated with respect to SiO2), so it cannot be invoked as a transfer mechanism.
That there is some virgin water from the asthenosphere added to the ocean is not argued, but seawater water takes the dominant role in transferring copious amounts of heat (and minerals) from MORB to the overlying oceans. As long as the spreading center is found in the ocean, the system is innundated with seawater at fairly high pressures.
What virgin water is introduced from the asthenosphere at the spreading centers is balanced with that consumed as the oceanic plate is taken back into the asthenosphere along subduction zones; much of the incorporated water is expelled in the subduction process because the ocean volume has remained fairly steady for much of earth’s history.
And sorry to disappoint Al Gore—but there are no naturally-occurring temperatures approaching millions of degrees anywhere in the earth. That’s another fantasy he entertains, apparently.

Deadman
December 28, 2009 4:32 am

Might not the five major subsystems, “atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere, lithosphere, and biosphere” be better described as “atmosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, lithosphere, and biosphere” because (a) there are important large bodies of water which are not marine and (b) it sounds niftier?

anna v
December 28, 2009 4:35 am

Richard Patton (23:40:56) :
Tsonis et al, a paper discussed here, made an analogue neural net of the climate assuming deterministic chaos, and gave predictions using the ocean and air current cycles. Their model foresees a cooling/stasis.

Deadman
December 28, 2009 4:45 am

Les Francis (et al.):

According to the laws of physics and aerodynamics, it is impossible for the humble bumblebee to fly

but see: http://www.news.cornell.edu/releases/March00/APS_Wang.hrs.html:

The computer-modeling accomplishment – which is expected to aid the future design of tiny insect-like flying machines and should dispel the longstanding myth that “bumblebees cannot fly, according to conventional aerodynamics” – was announced by Cornell University physicist Z. Jane Wang today (March 20) at the Minneapolis meeting of the American Physical Society (APS).

Dave vs Hal
December 28, 2009 4:45 am

Louis Hissink (01:18:22) :
re. dust devils and electricity, I don’t see the connection?
I would have thought a dust devil is an air vortex induced by a rapidly ascending parcel of warm air, caused by localised heating of ground layer air by the sun. Commonly seen in rangelands.

December 28, 2009 4:45 am

Great explanation Willis.
I am boned up on the political arguements about AGW but not the science so much.
I would suggest like myself that everyone who reads WUWT writes to your local/national newspapers letters section and express your doubts about AGW.
I get published quite a lot.
Nobody wants bad news and that is all the ‘Warmists’ have got to offer.
We sceptics however, have good news for the majority to hear.
Get writing.

DirkH
December 28, 2009 4:50 am

Recently (DEC 09), Gavin Schmidt has even ramped up his estimates of CO2’s climate sensitivity. Because they can’t explain the Pliocene warm period any other way.
http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v3/n1/abs/ngeo706.html
This is a risky bet on their part. If current climate doesn’t get really warm real soon now, their models will break even harder than they did in the past. Now if you’re a politician funding them toying around there and the results get ever more unbelievable how long will you go on footing their bill?

JonesII
December 28, 2009 4:52 am

magicjava (20:46:54) :
The Illuminati fighting to death in favor of “settled science”?
Wikipedia Woes –
Pending Crisis as Editors Leave in Droves

http://www.thunderbolts.info/thunderblogs/davesmith_au.htm
I think the solution would be to allow articles from dissenting authors on a same topic.

B. Kindseth
December 28, 2009 4:52 am

You did an excellent job of explaining the complexity of the world’s climate system. This is probably why the AGW advocates use computer climate models. Nature is messy. It doesn’t always behave as one expects. When the unexpected happens, one needs to re-evaluate ones hypothesis and go where the data leads. Computer models, once fully debugged, are clean. With them, you define the rules. There are no surprises. Computer models are great investigative tools, but there is no way one can consider the output from climate models evidence.
The IPCC not only presents the results of climate models as evidence, but states, “The fact that climate models are only able to reproduce observed global mean temperature changes over the 20th century when they include anthropogenic forcing, and that they fail to do so when they exclude anthropogenic forcing, is evidence for the influence of humans on global climate.” (IPCC-Working Group 1, The Physical Basis of Climate Change, 9.4.1.2, p684). ). The IPCC is actually saying that the absence of evidence of natural causes of the climate change is actually “evidence for the influence of humans on global climate.” This logical contortion is best described in Wikipedia, “The argument from ignorance, also known as argumentum ad ignorantiam (“appeal to ignorance”), argument by lack of imagination, or negative evidence, is a logical fallacy in which it is claimed that a premise is true only because it has not been proven false, or is false only because it has not been proven true.”
In a Climategate email in April of this year, Steve Colman, professor of Geological Science at the University of Minnesota Duluth, told scores of climate scientists “most people seem to accept that past history is the only way to assess what the climate can actually do (e.g., how fast it can change). However, I think that the fact that reconstructed history provides the only calibration or test of models (beyond verification of modern simulations) is under-appreciated.” (From a post by Terence Corcoran) In light of the Climategate emails, “under-appreciated” is probably one of the greatest understatements in scientific history. The foundation on which the climate models were built has suddenly turned to quicksand.
Can the evidence of anthropogenic global warming be any weaker? It is not evidence of a cause, but the evidence of absence, manufactured by computer models calibrated to questionable data.

Jeff Kooistra
December 28, 2009 4:53 am

Great post. It’s still “simple physics” — simple NON-LINEAR physics. And simple should never be confused with easy in physics. Nothing is as relative in physics as the word “simple.”
Jeffery D. Kooistra

JonesII
December 28, 2009 4:57 am

Mathematically simple: If you remove CO2, at the beginning you remove money from peoples´wallets, then you remove people…

Bill Illis
December 28, 2009 4:58 am

Great article Willis.
Let’s look at the climate over the last 350,000 years; the last three ice ages. It doesn’t follow the forcings.
It doesn’t match 3.0C per doubling, it doesn’t match the 100,000 year orbital cycle and it doesn’t match the high-latitude summer solar insolation Milankovitch Cycles either. It is mostly chaotic ice-albedo-feedback driving the climate.
http://img51.imageshack.us/img51/2127/last3iceages.png
http://img109.imageshack.us/img109/9195/milkanvsiceages.png

JonesII
December 28, 2009 4:59 am

Instead of removing CO2 from the atmosphere it would be advisable to remove ideology from science.

JonesII
December 28, 2009 5:02 am

Geoff Sherrington (03:02:33) : …and here we are dealing with earth´s nutrition and excretion process.

Jim
December 28, 2009 5:06 am

This is something that has bugged me a lot also. If it were a matter of just one equation, there would be no argument and no money spent on climate models. I tried to leave a comment on Lubos’ web site about this in response to someone who trotted out the Arrhenius equation for the 1000th time , but didn’t have a proper account.

SAGWH
December 28, 2009 5:07 am

Thermostat Effect ?

JonesII
December 28, 2009 5:11 am

Knowledge it is neither esoteric nor hidden, it is out there for those who don´t reject it. Trouble is that ideology makes them “believe”, and behind passionate ideology there is some grade of psychological instability, to say the least, and consequently, biased perception of reality.
In the millions of years of man´s existence on earth can you imagine that a complete explanation of cosmos has not been achieved?.
Just cool it down and you will see the light! 🙂

wakeupmaggy
December 28, 2009 5:14 am

This explanation of the complexity is exactly what I’ve been wishing for, thanks.
I enjoy the chaos pendulums on YouTube, one in particular that has “Synchronisation of 5 coupled metronomes done in Lancaster University” titled Synchronization.
These thought experiments above make me think of trying to synchronize hundreds of metronomes while the size of the soda cans underneath gradually changes, or attempting the same thing floating on water subject to random wave action.

John Cooke
December 28, 2009 5:15 am

Mike Borgelt (22:47:50) :
Leif Svalgaard (20:40:16) :
“Unfortunately, while the physics is simple, the climate is far from simple
That is because the Earth basically is cold without being too cold. Heat it up enough [say to 10,000 degrees] or cool it a couple hundred degrees, and simple physics takes over.”
Oh you mean like a star or the sun? Simple physics, totally predictable????

Mike: well, if there were no magnetic fields a star or the Sun would be nice and easy. My third year undergraduate students used to be able to produce decent models of quite realistic stars on an old BBC microcomputer in the 1980s; the global properties (ignoring magnetic fields) are not too difficult since the physics is not too complicated.
Introduce magnetic fields though and then you can get all sorts of complicated stuff, as we see with sunspots, flares, coronal loops, and so on. Another complex (and not too well understood) system; in the case of stars it’s the magnetic field that clobbers the simple models.
Great post, Willis.

Hmmm
December 28, 2009 5:23 am

Now we finally know what Willis was talkin’ ’bout.

hareynolds
December 28, 2009 5:32 am

Just sitting here in Houston, ready to start another relatively complex CFD (computational fludi dynamics) model (likely ~5 MM hexhedral cells, yikes) when I read this post.
Brilliant stuff.
Anybody can teach advanced concepts to highly qualified grad students (my materials prof, ex-Chalk River Nuke guy, who wrote on the blackboard (!) with his left hand, and in the next motion erased with his right, comes to mind)
I find that it takes the brighest minds to clearly explain complex concepts to the Rest Of Us.
OTOH I wouldn’t expect less from Science Blog of the Year.
This one gets forwarded to all the usual suspects.

December 28, 2009 5:38 am

This is one of the goofiest posts I’ve ever read on this topic.
First, the ‘author’ demonstrates how all solids are not alike in conducting heat (everyone who has had basic physics understands this). Then the ‘author’ goes on to show how humans (who are over 90% water and have active temperature adjustment mechanisms) don’t seem to follow the same principle. Doh!
Then he tries to confuse us about gravity and meandering streams. Erosion and deposition are indeed simple processes, but we are not supposed to think about them lest the ‘author’ fails to get his point across.
Based on these poorest of premises, the ‘author’ attempts a distant but failed leap at a conclusion that there is absolutely no way that the climate can be modeled in any shape or form.
Such is the fodder for little minds, but having both experience in physics and computer modeling, I find such a conclusion to be arm-waving at best, desperate denialism at worst.
[Reply: You are welcome to submit your own article explaining how well computer climate models work. ~dbstealey, mod.]

AdderW
December 28, 2009 5:40 am

Les Francis (22:06:09) :
Physics.
According to the laws of physics and aerodynamics, it is impossible for the humble bumblebee to fly

That is a statement from 1934 by the French entomologist August Magnan and of course he was wrong, which is obvious…he just couldn’t explain how the bumblebee flaps it’s wings

wakeupmaggy
December 28, 2009 5:42 am

Paul Hildebrandt (03:06:23) :
Actually, the earth is flowing, and has been since Day 1. It’s called Plate Tectonics. Although not flowing at incredible speeds, the continents and oceanic basins are moving on a conveyor belt of sorts.
For simple entertainment I keep this page open:
http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/recenteqsww/
while I wait for other pages to load. Day after day I watch the earth unzip itself. They even have animations week by week. Over time, one can get a sense of the real dynamism of the crust. And of course, you can haul off to the tsunami warning center to see if the oceans are going to respond.
History Channel “How the Earth was Made” is just spectacular, no mention of AGW at all and they don’t even call it the “Planet”, which is a key word I’ve grown suspicious of.
Investors Business Daily is calling for Five Decades of Cooling! http://www.investors.com/NewsAndAnalysis/Article.aspx?id=516286
If the markets respond to reality this thing is over.

Dr. Terry Mudder
December 28, 2009 5:43 am

RE: THE FIVE STAGES OF DEATH
The five stages of death are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. After Copenhagen where we found change is not about our climate but what is in our pockets, the latest rhetoric suggests we have entered the bargaining phase. Depression and acceptance will eventually follow.

kwik
December 28, 2009 5:46 am

It is very unfortunate that Michael Crichton is now deceased.
Rest in Peace.
I’m sure that if he had lived now, Climategate would have been of interest to him.
He does however still have a web-site on climate, and I found it most amusing reading his speech on Yellowstone National Park.
Since this is somewhat outdated, he comments on IPCC report from 2001. Im sure they havent changed their mind since then?
At the lower part of the page;
“long term prediction of future climate states is not possible”..
Must be very sad for the AGW’ers that even IPCC dont speak “newspeak” anymore….
Here;
http://www.michaelcrichton.net/speech-ourenvironmentalfuture.html

Aaron Edwards
December 28, 2009 5:48 am

To scienceofdoom:
The atmosphere is not an explosive mixture and CO2 is not a poison like cyanide!
Recall that CO2 is non combustible. Far from being a bomb or a pollutant, it is first and foremost an essential component to the very complex fabric of life on the planet.
What a silly way to attempt to clarify your argument. Nothing more than another oversimplification by “Warmanistas” who mix scientific sounding metaphors to strike fear in the minds of children.
Try to remember that adults populate this blog. No one here is ignorant of nor doubts the radiative properties CO2. However, we do say that the climate is far too complex and the knowledge of its behavior too poorly understood to say with certainty that 0.04% CO2 in the atmosphere will destroy the earth as you assert.

Jeff L
December 28, 2009 5:54 am

Willis, in the spirit of further testing your hypothesis, I have some more comments for you.
In thinking about it some more overnight, there is more to think about for this analog because there are “forcings” which will change the equilibrium of the system – for example, if the slope of the system were changed via tectonics or change in base level (such as sea level change) or a change in bedload carried by the stream, the stream will find a new equilibrium state. Of course, other forcing – such as a man-made intervention short cut of a meander loop will not.
So, with that in mind, is CO2 like the short cut or is it like a change in base level? An in either case, what evidence can you present to support that? An interesting implication is also that even if CO2 acts like a base level change, it simply means a new equilibrium will be established & that no “tipping points” exist – ie – we will not have any runaway greenhouse warming. I would say the geological record supports this given much higher CO2 concentrations in the geologic past

type check
December 28, 2009 5:57 am

Two typos:
“a chance of A”
“miniature steel shed”

nanny_govt_sucks
December 28, 2009 6:01 am

Tom said:

Similarly, a free market economy is incredibly complex, but it nevertheless responds positively to low interest rates and negatively to high interest rates.

Perhaps you can explain how high interest rates which induce people to save which makes more capital available is a “negative”? Perhaps you can explain how low interest rates which induce people to spend and makes less capital available is a “positive”?
In actuality, both of these scenarios are neither positive or negative, as long as it is a free society that determines the interest rate.

Mike M
December 28, 2009 6:10 am

Meandering rivers is a great analogy. We should challenge James Hansen to write a computer model to predict river meandering! With fewer variables, it HAS to be simpler than predicting climate so, if he’s successful at predicting that, then and only then will I begin to take any notice of his climate models that cannot even predict the price of carbon credits let alone the climate. It seems that CO2 is the only thing that alarmist climate models are based upon. Their algorithm might as well boil down to Td = k(C-350) where Td is the change in global temperature, C is concentration of CO2, 350 is an arbitrary concentration value that these arrogant fools think they have the authority to declare as being the ‘correct amount’ of CO2 and k is as large as they think they can get away with. Simple physics, meet simple arithmetic.

December 28, 2009 6:21 am

jorgekafkazar (20:31:08) :
“gtrip (20:00:23) : “Where do the proles fit in?”
north prole at the top, south prole at the bottom.”
Very nice!
LOL!
Mark

Johnny56
December 28, 2009 6:27 am

Government policy of supporting research is wrongheaded.
When an institution is formed out of the need to solve a problem,
if the problem is solved there no longer is a need for the institution.
This is observable in the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton’s “fight”
against racism. Attempts to provide “social justice” are in reality
nothing more than fanning racial flames.
Same with climate science institutions funded by government money. Solve the problem by administering the “fixes” and no more need for climate institutions.

Sheridan
December 28, 2009 6:34 am

The main problem I have with Arrhenius result is, what was the spectrum used for the calculations. Without the knowledge of quantum mechanics it is impossible to know that that absorption forms, what is, a lifetime broadened point spectrum (vibrational-rotational point spectrum to be specific) and if (and this is a big if, I know) the lifetime of the rotational modes is long enough then, beacuse those modes are rather dense, the results would be dominated by the spectral resolution of the apparatus used to measure the CO2 IR spectrum.
The reason for this is that if the spectrum form separated modes (long lifetime), the atmosphere absorbs photons with energies at and very close to those modes. For simplicity, we can consider this energy to be completely absorbed by the atmosphere (IRL, this energy is emitted at roughly 70-80 K lower tempereture in the upper atmosphere). Photons with energies between the modes are simply radiated through the atmosphere.
If, however, one is ignorant of the physics and measures the spectrum with insufficient resolution then one will come to the conclusion that all photons throughout the entire vibrational mode are absorbed and emitted at a lower temperature in the upper atmosphere. This way, one will arrive at an entirely different result.

Bruce Cobb
December 28, 2009 6:35 am

Dave vs Hal (23:57:26) :
A complex system with negative feedbacks maintaining an equilibrium. Sounds suspiciously like the G… word (the earth behaving like a simple organism). Life co-evolved with this planet and it wouldn’t surprise me if some of the feedbacks are biological. Lovelock may one day be pardoned by the church of scepticism.
First, your “church of scepticism” is a rather hilarious example of projection. Lovelock is correct that the earth’s climate is self-regulating to a large extent, the oceans probably being the largest of the self-regulating mechanisms. Where he went wrong with his “Gaia” theory was that he seemed to think the climate was somehow in a delicate balance, which was easily perturbed by man. Under Gaia theory, man is viewed as an outside, and negative force throwing the earth’s fragile climate system out of whack. While there is no doubt man can and does affect the environment in negative ways, pollution being the best example, and he can also affect micro climates with his cities and UHI effect, as well as through deforestation, causing drying among other things, his overall effect on climate, particularly through his use of “fossil fuels” is actually relatively small. Whatever slight amount of warming effect we have is a good thing, since it is cooling that is destructive to life. The Warmist movement, with its fixation on a completely beneficial gas, C02, has actually taken man’s eyes off the prize, environmentally speaking.

Bridget H-S
December 28, 2009 6:38 am

Thanks Willis – I’m glad I read that, it was most illuminating (especially as I thought you were sitting with your feet in a bucket smoking a cigarette). Also all the comments and further expansion of arguments. I am not a scientist (more of an artist, p*** or otherwise) and find a lot of this hard to follow but I persevere as I think it is important to try to understand. Supposedly I am intelligent but it is worrying that AGWs can sway the general populace so easily and now that we have got into this mess, given the extent that commerce is now involved in the big business alongside it, I wonder how we can ever get out of this shambles without another financial meltdown. Nothing is simple, is it?

Don
December 28, 2009 6:41 am

Some of it IS simple physics. If you take the radiation spectrum of the planet and overlay it with the absorption spectrum of CO2 you will find that the CO2 only absorbs a very small amount of the radiation no matter what the concentration. Perhaps we have seen the maximum since the CO2 concentration keeps on going up but the planet temperature has not. The computer models that predict “tipping points” require “forcing” mechanisms which have not been demonstrated. For example warming may increase the water vapor content of the atmosphere which would increase the greenhouse warning. However, if the water vapor produces clouds that will reduce the amount of solar radiation getting to the ground giving cooling. As was said by someone “sometimes you know what you don’t know and sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know.”

Jim
December 28, 2009 6:45 am

************
sustainableloudoun (05:38:25) :
This is one of the goofiest posts I’ve ever read on this topic.
First, the ‘author’ demonstrates how all solids are not alike in conducting heat (everyone who has had basic physics understands this). Then the ‘author’ goes on to show how humans (who are over 90% water and have active temperature adjustment mechanisms) don’t seem to follow the same principle. Doh!
Then he tries to confuse us about gravity and meandering streams. Erosion and deposition are indeed simple processes, but we are not supposed to think about them lest the ‘author’ fails to get his point across.
Based on these poorest of premises, the ‘author’ attempts a distant but failed leap at a conclusion that there is absolutely no way that the climate can be modeled in any shape or form.
**********************
You seem to be extremely upset over a few simple but illuminating analogies.
Also, AFAIK, no one has produced a climate model that works, so you would be hard pressed to prove the climate can be meaningfully modeled. What evidence do you have that it can be modeled? Especially given the current level of computer technology, it might be 50 more years before a successful model could be constructed – maybe longer – if ever.

A C Osborn
December 28, 2009 6:50 am

Pippa Biggs, the European Glaciers have been retreating overall since the last Ice Age and no one denies that the Human Race has a large impact on wild life.
But do you also believe that Polar Bears ar more endangered now (pop. 25,0000 than in 1950 (pop 5,000) as shown on UK TV.
So based on the Non Science of Man Made Global Warming, just what is it you are going to rush out and do instead of sitting still waiting for scientists to come up with a definitve answer.
Why not copy all those SO CONCERNED MMDW proponents, fly in private jets, drive bigger limousines, take a dozen “advisors” with you when you go to meetings?

DirkH
December 28, 2009 6:53 am

Care about the environment? How about buying a carbon certificate and retire it?
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/25/science/earth/25gift.html?_r=1&hpw
found on
http://planetgore.nationalreview.com/
The crazy abound while the sane are ostracized. I guess this is only temporary, though.

JonesII
December 28, 2009 6:53 am

Dr. Terry Mudder (05:43:48) Thanks Doc. Just your advice missing. Could it be something like this?: “Just let it go, cry. cry a lot, it will release all the stress caused by that damned “climate gate” and then by copenhagen…

Ed Zuiderwijk
December 28, 2009 6:54 am

I respectfully beg to differ: also the physics is not “simple”. For instance, try to find a basic (not “simple”) model of the atmosphere which incorporates both radiation transport and heat transport by convection in a self-consistent manner. It ain’t there, and that is the “simple” truth.

Lichanos
December 28, 2009 6:55 am

If it were just “basic physics,” enormous computer models would not be required to make “credible” predictions – an envelope and pencil would suffice.

Kevin
December 28, 2009 6:58 am

Great post!

DirkH
December 28, 2009 7:00 am

“Sheridan (06:34:58) :
The main problem I have with Arrhenius result is…”
Sheridan, there’s an institute in Davos that allegedly managed to measure the IR radiation send back by CO2 . The researcher is Claus Fröhlich .
Found an article (in German) here:
http://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/print/d-52485438.html
By now i haven’t found the results on the web but if you search for Fröhlich on WUWT you get some hits. Mostly, a tiny amount of CO2 already suffices for near saturation of the absorption bands of CO2, causing the known 33 degree C greenhouse effect. How much of a difference further increases of CO2 make is AFAIK still subject of controvery.

JAE
December 28, 2009 7:00 am

Willis says:
“We can’t cut through an oxbow to shorten the river, it just lengthens elsewhere to maintain the same total length. Instead of being affected by a change in the forcings, the system sets its own preferential operating conditions (e.g. length, temperature, etc.) based on the natural constraints and flow possibilities and other parameters of the system.”
Oh, yeah? You haven’t studied the US Corps of Engineers!
Seriously, a great little essay, Willis!

Mark_K
December 28, 2009 7:06 am

To verify my results, I try the experiment with a block of copper. I get the same result, the end of the block that’s not in the hot water soon begins to warm up. I try it with a block of glass, same thing. My tentative conclusion is that simple physics says that if you heat one end of a solid, the other end will eventually heat up as well.
So I look around for a final test. Not seeing anything obvious, I have a flash of insight. I weigh about 75 kg. So I sit with my feet in the bucket of hot water, put the thermometer in my mouth, and wait for my head to heat up. This experimental setup is shown in Figure 1 above.
Cute, but poor a poor test of your hypothesis since your body is not a solid.

Peter
December 28, 2009 7:11 am

@ jorgekafkazar (20:31:08) :
“gtrip (20:00:23) : ‘Where do the proles fit in?’
jorgekafkazar: north prole at the top, south prole at the bottom.”
Don’t forget about the ozone prole hovering over the South prole

Anders L.
December 28, 2009 7:13 am

“It turns out that these types of flow systems are not passive systems which can take up any configuration. Instead, they actively strive to maximize some aspect of the system.”
Natural systems do not “actively strive” to achieve anything.
” As a result, there is no physics-based reason to assume that increasing CO2 will make any difference to the global temperature, and the Constructal Law gives us reason to think that it may make no difference at all.”
In that case, I think it is wise to stick to old-fashioned math and physics for the time being.
As far as I am concerned, “constructal law” is just a longer word for “God”. And I don’t believe in God.

December 28, 2009 7:21 am

[Reply: You are welcome to submit your own article explaining how well computer climate models work. ~dbstealey, mod.]
My friend’s computer model was used to design all the wings of Boeing aircraft since the 767 in the 70’s, which is as relevant as Willis’s analogies! Water flowing downhill tries to get there as fast as possible which would mean following a brachistochrone and this is supposed to tell us something about the response of the climate to CO2? (By the way Willis a response of 3º to a doubling of [CO2] is not a “simple linear relationship”, it’s logarithmic).

DirkH
December 28, 2009 7:25 am

“Dave vs Hal (23:57:26) :
A complex system with negative feedbacks maintaining an equilibrium. Sounds suspiciously like the G… word (the earth behaving like a simple organism). Life co-evolved with this planet and it wouldn’t surprise me if some of the feedbacks are biological. […]”
Of course. A very interesting area here is Phytoplankton. Imagine all the oceans full of gazillion algae. With thousands of different species. All of the time they’re mutating, evolving and adapting. Some species become more plentiful, others rarer. So the composition of the entirety of the phytoplancton changes all the time. What would you expect, that it adapts toward any change very quickly or not?
It would be fascinating to incorporate this into a computer model. Oh, and clouds.

Pat Moffitt
December 28, 2009 7:26 am

Willis- I thought the article quite good. The scientist in me forces me to play Devil’s Advocate. If we increase the sediment load to a river- the river responds by seeking a new equilibrium state-basically the river channel widens in response to the new load. Increasing sediment load causes wider river channels- it does not cause channels to evolve a narrower cross section. (Ths is another area of flawed models- if I recall the best models with perfect input of sediment load, hydraulic inputs,geology etc can predict a natural river channel’s width to about +/_ 50%)
Why could a claim not be made using this analogy (replace CO2 for sediment) that increasing CO2 will produce undefined changes in the climate system but always in the direction of higher temperatures? I know the reasons why- I’m just looking at the applicability of using the analogy in some future debate.

Pascvaks
December 28, 2009 7:38 am

Humans need “simple” answers to deal with the challanges of life, AGW was a simple answer. Now what?

Dave F
December 28, 2009 7:44 am

Somewhat O/T, but it has previously occurred to me that the MWP may be related to the current warming through cities and roads absorbing IR from the sun and releasing it more slowly than the ground or plants (using photosynthesis) that were there previously. Is it not also the ‘developing’ world that is warming the fastest? What are they developing? Is there a figure for land use forcing?

Bulldust
December 28, 2009 7:54 am

Not sure if this has been posted before but it is a year old, so this might be a repeat:
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6613938246449800148&hl=en#
I just got a copy of his latest book (“Chill”) and this is what prompted me to look him up on the intarwebs. I am 50 mins into the video so far and thoroughly enjoying his presentation.

December 28, 2009 7:54 am

Very nice and well written Willis. You’ve done a great job explaining this.
If we assume the CO2 heat capture is the only active element changed in the climate system (i.e. no chemical change effects) then the problem is, how does the atmosphere respond to increased energy input.
Of all things I’m sure of, the climate scientist community has oversimplified the feedback mechanisms far too much. The moisture/cloud feedback is simply not understood and it is absolutely key to the right solution.

Lazarus Long
December 28, 2009 7:54 am

“The results of changes in such a flow system are often counterintuitive. For example, suppose we want to shorten the river. Simple physics says it should be easy. So we cut through an oxbow bend, and it makes the river shorter … but only for a little while.”
I don’t know, U. S. Grant tried to do that on the Mississippi River during the Vickburg campaign, to little result.
On the plus side, it confused the heck out of the Rebs.

alex verlinden
December 28, 2009 8:04 am

Willis,
your first example is a nice and simple image and serves as a really good answer to the BBC’s lord King experiment … a bottle and an alka seltzer is a simple experiment, but how is someone going to calculate your thermometer’s temperature when not only the thermal resistance of your body is impossible to calculate theoretically, but also a unknown amount of positive and negative feedbacks are into play … and moreover, in this problem you are able to do a lot of empirical work … you have the possibility of immobilising yourself for a day, use an extremely sensitive thermometer, and take some readings … how are we going to do an identical experiment with the whole world ?
I remember (vaguely) the “meandering river” from my hydraulics exam (1978) … it was a 5 page calculation that was considered rather difficult to reproduce … but even if complicated, that is small change compared to “calculating” the temperature of the globe 50 years into the future … as you said: “The Unbearable Complexity of Climate”

TJA
December 28, 2009 8:10 am

Chris Mooney “Discovers” that he is mentioned in the climategate emails after assuring us that there was “nothing to see there.”
http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2009/12/28/my-cameo-in-the-climategate-emails/

Spector
December 28, 2009 8:11 am

At ground level, I believe that most of the greenhouse effect of added carbon dioxide is mitigated by overkill as existing carbon dioxide and water vapor in the atmosphere are already absorbing 100% of most of those radiation wavelengths that would otherwise be affected by the added CO2.
I also wonder if convection might not be the major heat transfer mechanism in the lower atmosphere, below the tropopause. It is my understanding that well over 90 percent of the total mass of the atmosphere is contained below the tropopause. A continued convective heat transfer from the lower atmosphere can only be supported by an equal flow of radiant heat energy from the cloud tops. Perhaps this process is well understood, but with all the doubts that have been raised on the state of the science, I am not so sure.

JonesII
December 28, 2009 8:11 am

BTW: Breaking news: More complexity..
http://weather.unisys.com/surface/sst_anom.gif
Can anybody tell me what is it happening down there in the south pacific?

tomt
December 28, 2009 8:12 am

Charlie Martin (02:09:30) : You can be willing to bet whatever you want, but the direct effect that CO2 has on temps is known to be logarithmic. That is why even the alarmists talk about a doubling of CO2 talking about smaller increases is to small to bother with. The issue is what are the feedback effects from a doubling of CO2 and what other effects that aren’t well understood are also at play.

alex verlinden
December 28, 2009 8:15 am

Larry (22:15:42) :
thanks for the link …
even if this might be OT, and even if reading or verifying the paper is difficult for us (or better: me), the summary says a lot, if not all, and basically what I would say to anybody trying to quantify or calculate anything as complex as the world’s climate: utterly impossible, and therefore a lot of bollocks !

Syl
December 28, 2009 8:17 am

Charlie Martin (02:09:30) :
“Willis, I suspect this presentation is imprecise in this respect: it implicitly assumes small changes in CO2 concentration. If you were to add a lot of CO2, say doubling or trebling the concentration of CO2, then I’m willing to bet there would be a substantial observed warming. This would be like, in your river analogy, to substantially increasing the flow of water or some how significantly increasing the gradient.”
But don’t forget the logarithmic nature of CO2. As of now we are 108/280 the distance to a doubling which means that the amount of temperature change so far should be closer to half than 1/3 of the expected amount (maybe more-I don’t remember what Lindzen said exactly). If the rise due to CO2 so far is even 0.5C then the full doubling should be no more than 1.1C. It will be the same for the next doubling which would be 560PPM additional CO2, not merely 280 more.
So we could reach 1120 PPM with a temp rise of only about 2.2C.
Maybe. 🙂

Hank Henry
December 28, 2009 8:24 am

I suppose that the specific mechanism of meander formation has to do with the way water cuts the outer curves of a streambank together with something about the way silt moves and deposits in a stream whose current varies. If you think about the way the earth’s heat is moved by things like the gulf stream together with the greater cooling that happens at higher latitudes, one can see how fluctuations in the gulf stream could make for nonlinear oscillating behavior that make models poor predictors of future conditions. It seems akin to the age old “three body problem” of celestial mechanics. In addition to the gulf stream example: variations in clouds, snow cover, land forms, turbulence, wind patterns, and occasional large volcanoes suggest themselves as things that add tremendous complexity to the earth system. It makes one wonder what amount of computer power would be required to produce an adequate model of the earth’s surface. I know that Bill Gray has said that while weather models which use momentum fields will produce credible weather forecasts a few days in advance, when you try to use more realistic energy fields the problem escalates in complexity because you now are in the realm of factors which are squared. I daresay that because earth has continents mixed with oceans, together with an atmosphere, and temperatures that vary across the freezing point of water; the earth’s climate is much more complex and variable than many other planets.

tom t
December 28, 2009 8:31 am

Some of you might assume that this is not a subject for peer reviewed literature and as written in the post it wouldn’t be. But the the subject is. The earth is a non-equilibrium thermodynamic system and as such the complexities make taking about it in terms of simple concepts such as global average temperature almost meaningless.
http://www.reference-global.com/doi/abs/10.1515/JNETDY.2007.001

CodeTech
December 28, 2009 8:32 am

sustainableloudoun (05:38:25) :

First, the ‘author’ demonstrates how all solids are not alike in conducting heat (everyone who has had basic physics understands this). Then the ‘author’ goes on to show how humans (who are over 90% water and have active temperature adjustment mechanisms) don’t seem to follow the same principle. Doh!

At the risk of repeating the obvious, the point the author was making is that your “simple physics” models don’t work on a planetary atmosphere, because it has “active temperature adjustment mechanisms”. See? You only had to make a tiny leap of creativity.

Then he tries to confuse us about gravity and meandering streams. Erosion and deposition are indeed simple processes, but we are not supposed to think about them lest the ‘author’ fails to get his point across.
Based on these poorest of premises, the ‘author’ attempts a distant but failed leap at a conclusion that there is absolutely no way that the climate can be modeled in any shape or form.

One more rather tiny leap of creativity, unfortunately this one requires that you have at least a nodding acquaintance with the concept of “chaos”.

Such is the fodder for little minds, but having both experience in physics and computer modeling, I find such a conclusion to be arm-waving at best, desperate denialism at worst.

You were doing so well, then you fell into name calling and belittling. BTW, “denialism” is not actually a word.

Syl
December 28, 2009 8:36 am

A thoughtful and thought provoking piece. Thank you.
I agree that there is nothing that really shows the climate sensitivity to CO2. When I’ve read some of the analyses of the past concerning CO2, temperature, and climate sensitivity, what I’m left with is a lot of assumptions and the desire to have someone knowledgeable check the statistics. And any paper that uses a climate model to derive a sensitivity conclusion I regard with a gigantic grain of skepticism–again because of assumptions.

Syl
December 28, 2009 8:41 am

Lindsay H (00:15:30) :
“I see Nature is [creating] some new jobs for a new publication Nature Climate Change and are looking for a Chief Editor & Associate Chief Editor”
My initial reaction to this is that the prestigious publication ‘Nature’ wishes to distance itself from the climate change controversy and not have climate change issues interspersed in its flagship magazine. Let the chips fall where they may, but in an offshoot pub. And they may cover their arses by saying the volume of Climate Change papers has simply gotten too large and is crowding out other science.

Invariant
December 28, 2009 8:45 am

Congratulations Willis,
This is the best article I have read here at WUWT. And I agree, it’s particularly annoying to read trivial (but naïve) arguments by so called experts that do not appreciate the complexity of our climate!

David Jones
December 28, 2009 8:46 am

gtrip (21:08:08)
Don’t let yourselves get caught up into what Bradbury called the family; A circle of people connected via the internet that think that they know each other
Sometimes known as “The Team” !!

JonesII
December 28, 2009 8:52 am

CO2 is dead and its graveyard is at Copenhagen. It is just a ghost (which, as you all know means Gas).

David Segesta
December 28, 2009 9:04 am

Very interesting article. It sounds like Chaos Theory. Is that the same thing? Its strange that we don’t hear more about it in climate discussion. Earth’s climate is certainly complex enough to qualify.

hotrod
December 28, 2009 9:08 am

lichanos (06:55:47) :
If it were just “basic physics,” enormous computer models would not be required to make “credible” predictions – an envelope and pencil would suffice.

That is the point where you hand the person a pad of paper and a pencil and say:
“Oh could you please write that simple formula down so I can predict next weeks weather?”
Larry

December 28, 2009 9:11 am

@Andy Y (22:11:04) :
“Roger Sowell, ummm…. a heat transfer system IS a flow system. Come on man, that’s simple thermodynamics. So whatever criticisms you thought you were levying against Willis are completely unfounded and dumb. Additionally, no where in the entire commentary did he mention anything about steady state, so why you’re bringing that up is even more bewildering.”
The heat does indeed flow…the molecules do not in conductive heat transfer. In convective heat transfer, both heat and molecules flow. In radiative heat transfer only the heat flows. Simple thermodynamics. A river flows. Usually. The point, as you missed it, is that the earth does not flow. It orbits, it revolves, it wobbles a bit, but no flowing. Simple orbital mechanics.
As to steady state, it was implied in the article.
@anna v
“Several problems with this. First, rivers are non-steady-state, that is, they wax from high flow (Spring runoff), then ebb to low flow (late summer). The shape of a river is created much more by the high flow events than other flow regimes. Anyone who has lived near a river knows this. ”
Think again? What area dries out and how much and how hard during low flow should be equally significant to the the high flow effect, imo. All it takes is a tree trunk cutting the flow, and how the tree is snagged depends on how the previous bed dried etc. etc.”

The high flow effects are orders of magnitude greater than the low flow, silting or deposition effects. Deposition creates soft areas that are readily eroded (pose virtually zero resistance) during flood flow. We mine ancient river beds for sand, gravel, and clays. The rivers did a fine job of separating the larger particles from the smaller ones.
As an aside, during high flow periods of the Colorado river through the Grand Canyon, one can hear giant boulders smashing into the riverbed as they are carried along by the flow.
@Paul Hildebrandt (03:06:23) :
“Actually, the earth is flowing, and has been since Day 1. It’s called Plate Tectonics. Although not flowing at incredible speeds, the continents and oceanic basins are moving on a conveyor belt of sorts. Also, if you want to break it down even further, colliding continents are pushed up, oceanic basins are subducted down, rock is eroded and flows downstream as sediment, mass earth movements, and even in the atmosphere as dust. So, I would reevaluate your statement in light of the above. “
Plate tectonics indeed move the continental plates, but they end up on the earth, no flowing. What plate tectonics do over long periods, in relation to climate changing, is create mountains that change the wind patterns, form glaciers (if the mountains are sufficiently high e.g. Himalayas), create river basins, create earthquakes and tsunamis, and have an effect on ocean currents. Plate tectonics are not fast events as you mentioned. Mountain building is very slow, while a volcanic eruption is very quick.
@Marcus (03:22:41) :
“When the only tool you have is a hammer, every job looks like a nail!”
When one is a master builder with a complete set of tools, it is rather easy to choose the right tool for the job.

kadaka
December 28, 2009 9:13 am

nanny_govt_sucks (06:01:34) :
Perhaps you can explain how high interest rates which induce people to save which makes more capital available is a “negative”? Perhaps you can explain how low interest rates which induce people to spend and makes less capital available is a “positive”?

How about I take a shot at it?
Money is the circulating fluid in the financial system. For a healthy economy we want the money circulating as fast as possible, with the caveat being that with too much flow the system gets leaky, unstable, money gets lost and diverted to somewhere else than where it should be (credit defaults prevent money from returning to lenders, etc).
When interest rates are low, people are more willing to borrow, that’s the important thing. As long as the supply is there, that is other people are willing to lend (invest), then the flow increases, which is normally positive (see caveat). The interest paid on savings may be low, but then people with money to invest find other places than banks to put their money into the system while searching for greater returns (more flow). Companies have money to start up, to expand, the economy grows.
When interest rates are up, the flow is restricted. People are less likely to borrow, thus less money is circulating in the system, there is a reduced flow rate. The economy suffers. If a particular industry has an expected rate of return of 8%, and the banks are paying 9%, people would rather put their money in the bank. So the industry does not get money it could use to expand operations, to grow, and if it hits a tough spot where it needs to borrow money to survive, then it may die because the money is not there. As interest rates go up the economy slows in growth, stagnates, and can even shrink. Thus high interest rates are a negative.
Depending on what imbalances are affecting the system, like politics and taxes and world events that affect investor confidence, there might not always be a straightforward high-negative low-positive relationship. There are a chaotic elements involved, and a lot more complexity. But overall the relationship holds.

Invariant
December 28, 2009 9:25 am

scienceofdoom (21:25:35): Anyone know of less certain people than realclimate who look into the subject of climate as chaotic and any papers on it?
REPLY: “weather” is known to be chaotic. Climate is a long term collection of weather events, so it stands to reason that it is also chaotic, but on a longer, slower time scale. – Anthony

Exactly! To argue that the climate is chaotic on short timescales only is clearly nonsense and violates the well documented¹ inverse power law scale invariance in our climate that indicates long-range correlations. Lorenz (1963) conclusion concerning the atmosphere that “prediction of the sufficiently distant future is impossible by any method” remains unrefuted.
¹Chaotic Climate Dynamics (2007) Dr. Selvam, Indian Institute of Tropical Metrology.

Henry chance
December 28, 2009 9:25 am

Thar she blows

If we boil and burn up as predicted, the need for new bridges is over.

Bart
December 28, 2009 9:26 am

Anders L. (07:13:06) :
“Natural systems do not “actively strive” to achieve anything.”
I’ll notify Dr. Clausius immediately.
leftymartin (22:55:00) :
This is excellent reinforcement of my own inchoate thoughts, to wit: The Earth must be in an operational regime which is difficult to get out of, else it would have gotten out of it long ago. Such a state is reached when there is active resistance, i.e., negative feedback, keeping it there.
tom (21:09:47) :
“…overeating will lead to obesity and starvation will lead health problems and possibly death… a free market economy … responds positively to low interest rates and negatively to high interest rates.”
What will the effect of weight be if you raise your caloric intake 3%, i.e., in a 2000 calorie diet, by 60 calories (about the content of an apple)? How about if you lower interest rates by 3% of, say, 6%, i.e., by 0.18% in absolute terms?

Johnny56
December 28, 2009 9:28 am

When we start to delve deep into the physical thermal
properties of the different metal cubes the author used
in his analogy we loose the basic point.
That seem to be an intentional diversion of his point by
some here.
It’s not important that a block of, say, aluminum would
heat up at a different rate than a block of iron.
But that they BOTH heat up. And a human body doesn’t.
The body is dynamic while the blocks of metal are static.
That, I believe , is the point.
The path of a falling snowflake could be precisely predicted
using mathmatics but the data set to do that would be astronomically huge. The same with the climate.
The interaction of variables upon all other variables,
even if all are known (giggle here), produce the same krazy-large data sets.
So then we use “proxy” data sets where static data is used
in place of actual dynamic data. (more giggling here).
Science teadhes humility in that the more you know, the more
aware of your are of your own ignorance.

David Jones
December 28, 2009 9:32 am

P Wilson (04:17:57)
Its like a throwback to the 1930’s when communism and fascist ideologies put the blame on man as the great fault of civilisation, so people ought to be bent to the ideologies of political extremes to save them and civilisation.
That seems to be the way its developing as an ideology
Firstly, It seems to me to be the otherway around. It’s the communists that got into the political lobbying groups masquarding as “charities” e.g Greenpeace, WWF, etc. that are pushing this.
Secondly; IMO Communism and Fascism are pretty much twins. Mussolini was Secretary of the Italian Socialist Party before he became a Fascist. The Nazi group was named the National Socialist Party. In UK the British Union of Fascists was form by Oswald Moseley, who was a Cabinet Member in a Labour Government. They are of a muchness.

crosspatch
December 28, 2009 9:32 am

Apparently they are having some problems in Ireland with burst water pipes and water mains. This is one of those circumstances where temperatures a few degrees below normal costs millions of dollars but temperatures a few degrees above normal are tolerated without problem.
Cooling is worse than warming.

P Gosselin
December 28, 2009 9:32 am

JonesII
The hypothesis is dead, but don’t expect governments and treehuggers to stop playing the music. Like the band on the Titanic, they’re gonna keep on playing while the ship sinks.

Dave F
December 28, 2009 9:33 am

sustainableloudoun (05:38:25) :
“First, the ‘author’…”
“Then the ‘author’…”
“…lest the ‘author’…”
“…the ‘author’…”

Ok, which is it? Are you alleging that the author of this article is someone other than listed, that the article has no author, or that you are incredibly incompetent at the use of apostrophes to ‘denote sarcasm’? See what I did there?

Galen Haugh
December 28, 2009 9:40 am

I’ve said knowledge is like a circle: As the diameter of your knowledge increases, the circumfrence of your ignorance enlarges that much more.

George E. Smith
December 28, 2009 9:42 am

“”” John F. Hultquist (20:46:58) :
All this ‘simple physics’ makes me think of the simple formula for the area of a circle. Area is equal to pi times the radius squared. Many people have used this simple formula. Not many can derive it or prove that it is true.
But the simple GHG idea is even more difficult. When someone says it is simple, just say “Prove it.” Ask them if the process works for CO2 why doesn’t it work for O2 or N2, both of which are major components of the atmosphere. Yes, some people do know what is going on but most have no idea, especially those out in the snow chanting ‘turn off the heat.” And if it is simple physics, why must there be some unknown ‘forcing’ to make it work. Do most of the people know about this or have any idea how quickly simple physics gets astoundingly complex?
As for Willis’s example the concepts for meandering rivers have been shown for years in earth science classes, thus providing such a demand that the “stream table” has been commercialized:
http://wardsci.com/category.asp?c=890&bhcd2=1261975346
and an interesting example:
http://scienceblogs.com/highlyallochthonous/2009/10/how_to_build_a_meandering_rive.php
For many years Washington State University in Pullman had a RR-boxcar size one inside a building. Maybe they still do. “””
Well proving the area of a circle, is fairly trivial if one is skilled in the integral calculus; but not so simple if that more advanced level of mathematics is prohibited. But then not so difficult either if one is good at geometry.
Simply divide the circle up into a large number of pi sections (pun intended); might as well make them all the same, and make the number of them very large. So the total circumference of the circle is still 2.pi.r, one may almost say by definition of pi; well one definition.
So now you take every other pi section and reverse it, and they all pack together into a rectangular block, with somewhat scalloped long sides, which is why we make the number large. Each long side contains half the circumference of the circle, so that is pi.r, and the short side of the block is simply the radius r , and simple geometry tells us the area is now r x pi.r, or pi.r^2. qed.
And if you don’t like that definition of pi, then you can always use:-
pi = -sqrt(-1).Ln(-1); which although correct, is not calculable.
As for having a RR box car inside a building; you should visit “The House on the Rock.” which is out in the boonies in Wisconsin. Why the rock is there is about as mysterious as why Ayre’s rock exists in Australia. Now the house on the rock is more like the house IN the rock; well it’s hard to decide which parts of the house are in the rock and which parts of the rock are in the house.
But more importantly; around the base of the rock, there are extraneous buildings; some quite sizeable. The one that comes to mind contains three simply giant pipe organs, all of which can be played simultaneously from one of a handful of equally impressive consoles; one of which contains about 21 keyboards, not counting the pedal board. Down on the floor, sort of in the middle of the building, there is a giant triple expansion steam engine, out of some ancient steamship. But the piece(s) de resistance, are the dioramas on the inside walls of the building; some of them quite large; as in complete railway locomotive engines just stuck on the wall of the building as if hanging on a thumbtack. The original owner of the house on the rock, one might say was the archetypical nut case.

huh?
December 28, 2009 9:44 am

Phil. (07:21:49) :
“Water flowing downhill tries to get there as fast as possible which would mean following a brachistochrone and this is supposed to tell us something about the response of the climate to CO2?”
Phil, since you seem to know so much about everything, can you please explain why cutting through an oxbow is not a stable approach to making a river’s path shorter? Or is the whole claim about the river wrong?
I await your enlightening response.

Tony Carey
December 28, 2009 9:45 am

From: Ganymede 6642
That the physics of climate change is uncertain is already well summarised by the IPCC in its 2007 report (The Physical Science Basis). The table on page 32 of the Technical Summary gives a 90% confidence interval for the global mean radiative forcing of all anthropogenic agents of 0.6 – 2.4 watts per square metre.
This whole post is therefore somewhat redundant.

December 28, 2009 9:50 am


gtrip (20:36:13) :

So what? I don’t know what you are saying.

a) Did you miss the smile/wink emicon? (Yes)
b) Re-read the comment in context of my original post.
c) Are you unaware of geological processes which level otherwise uneven/sculpted areas near rivers left over from the glacial era? (I think so.)
I offered Battle Creek as an example since it was an area I had observed/studied this ‘effect’.
.
.

George E. Smith
December 28, 2009 9:51 am

As for meandering rivers; the same system works quite well whether the river water is poured over the land or over the ocean. Giant rivers meander all over the oceans, and given how cheesy the ocean is compared to the Grand Canyon rocks, they switch course someone more readily.
That alone, makes monitoring the earth’s temperature, by measuring the ocean water temperatures, an exercise in futility. Return in your taxpayer grant fed survey ship, next year to the same GPS co-ordinates, and you will likely be in quite different water from what you were in last year.
And if you succeed in somehow extracting an average temperature; it will tell you exactly nothing about how and where those ocean rivers will wander to next.

Galen Haugh
December 28, 2009 9:51 am

To Roger Sowell:
But the main components of climate/weather are the atmosphere and the oceans. They flow on a rigorous and constant basis and transport huge amounts of heat in all directions on the globe.
Add to these the main driver–energy from the sun in various forms, which can also be considered a flow.

J.Peden
December 28, 2009 9:55 am

If “it’s simple physics”, why not make a greenhouse at the Earth’s surface, fill it with N2 and O2 only and a pool of H2O large enough to saturate the enclosed atmosphere, freeze over, and so on, then measure the temp. each hour x 24 and say that’s the temp. for that place on Earth “unforced” by CO2, for each hour?
Because the Oceans do the same thing for the Earth’s “Greenhouse” in regard to water vapor.
Then add some differing amounts of CO2 and repeat. Repeat for every “grid cell”, and viola we have just figured out everything we need to know about water vapor’s effect and CO2’s effect on temperatures. And about what the temperature of each grid cell “should” be.
I don’t even want to think about what’s wrong with my simple physics experiment, but my problem with the ghg effect is that I have no idea why, if the effect is supposed to work the way Climate Scientists say it works, water vapor hasn’t already produced it’s maximal ghg effect, reached its own tipping point, and why CO2 would do anything at all to change the effect of water vapor, which should have already burned up the Planet.
In the TAR section on ghgs water vapor ~”is not discussed”. I still can’t believe it actually said that and might have to check it again, except that I didn’t get a screen shot, so things might have been “adjusted”.

P Gosselin
December 28, 2009 9:57 am

RECORD COLD WATCH FOR UK
Our reader UK mates here at WUWT may want to cozy up with your lassies in the days ahead.
Joe Bastradi forecasts snowy weather for the UK in the days ahead, followed by an Arctic blast. That means clear nights in combination with snow cover could send the mercury a falling.
http://www.accuweather.com/world-bastardi-europe-blog.asp?partner=accuweather
Plato at CA posted the following: Met Office slap-down
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/topics/weather/6901002/Warnings-of-more-snow-for-Britain-as-predictions-of-mild-winter-fall-flat.html
The accuracy of the Met Office is truly astounding. I’m just so amazed that one could miss the barn so often. This is comedy.

George E. Smith
December 28, 2009 9:57 am

“”” Roger Sowell (09:11:34) :
@Andy Y (22:11:04) :
“Roger Sowell, ummmThe heat does indeed flow…the molecules do not in conductive heat transfer. In convective heat transfer, both heat and molecules flow. In radiative heat transfer only the heat flows. Simple thermodynamics. “””
Well not so fast Roger. I agree with you that in convection, both “heat” and molecules flow, while in conduction, only heat “flows”.
But in radiation, there is no “heat” to begin with, and there is no transfer of heat with the flow of the photons; energy yes, but heat no, since there is no molecular matter involved in the transport of photons.

ThinkingBeing
December 28, 2009 10:02 am

This article is ridiculously disingenuous. To start, it implies that climate science applies “simple physics” with no consideration for complexity, like a child thinking that anything that is brown is chocolate. It’s not true, and you know it. You belittle all of climate science by acting like scientists are oh so silly and foolish to not see the obvious that you and yours can see.
In particular, it is a flat out lie that the models assume a relationship that results in a 3C change. They “assume” a large and complex system of physical relationships, and are allowed to randomly run their course in thousands of different iterations, but in the end the 3C pops out at the end, no matter what… much like the water, no matter how it meanders down the slope, winds up at the bottom in the end.
Your Constructal Law analogies are improperly applied. The climate models do behave just as you describe, just as does the real climate. In fact, your Constructal Law analogy is a perfect argument for why deniers should stop already with the “the climate is cooling” rant. Any “cooling” you see in a short time span is just the meandering of a system that is never nicely in equilibrium.
Third, it is arguable as to whether Constructal Law actually applies to the climate. It may, but there are differences. It may apply to weather patterns, to air flows and water circulation, but not necessarily to heat exchange as a whole. In particular, Constructal Law applies to more structured systems than the climate, not less. A river flowing through a landscape, or a tree growing or a traffic pattern is in no way as complex and multidimensional as a climate system.
Fourth, your river analogy is more properly applied by changing a relevant factor between two runs, such as the slope of the sled, or the rate of water being poured. Those factors would most certainly result in certain predictable changes (more force to overcome friction results in less meandering, or at least faster changes in the direction of flow). In fact, if the rate of flow is increased enough, Constructal Law will cease to apply. The water would cut straight through and down without enough friction or cohesive substance to deflect it.
Fifth, and this to me is the big point… the entire argument does come down to climate sensitivity. Deniers think there is going to be some magical, impossible to predict negative feedback that forces the climate to stay right where you want it to, within a 1C range. This is, in fact, equivalent to your river analogy. Deniers think that the river must flow straight downhill, that even if a pebble slightly alters the river’s course, the water will overcome it because it wants to flow straight downhill. It can’t possibly vary by more than 1C.
The question is… how stable is the climate? You want to believe that it will stay within one degree of a norm, and it will do anything and everything possible to stay there. You can’t offer an actual mechanism, with proof, that it will happen. You just keep saying it will. But experience and science says the opposite… the climate won’t run away, but the range within which it will vary is larger than you and yours are willing to admit (funny how you’ll argue that the MWP exists and was warmer than today, but that at the same time the climate is too insensitive to vary by 3C due to CO2).
Really, to properly use your river analogy, what climate scientists are saying is that, despite all of the perturbations the flow may assume, it will try to head downhill and eventually reach the bottom. The statement that “CO2 will raise temperatures by 0.5C, which will increase water vapor and thereby raise temperatures in total to 3C” is equivalent to the sled/river statement that “the water will reach the bottom eventually, no matter what else goes on.”
The denier position is equivalent to saying that the system is so convoluted and unpredictable that the water will find a way to pool and stop on the way, or even work it’s way back up, so it never reaches the bottom, because equilibrium states that the water “wants to stay where it is.”
So, no, your Constructal Law analogies are bogus. They may apply to climate science, but not in the way that you’ve presented them. You’ve done a very artful job of confusing a lot of people into thinking what they already want to believe, and what you want them to believe.
The final, ultimate question is, can an artificial change in the basic parameters of the system due to an unexpected external influence, i.e. a 0.5C forcing due to CO2 with a cumulative 3C forcing due to water vapor, have a noticeable influence before the system stabilizes in a new equilibrium? Constructal theory says nothing one way or the other about whether that value is or is not a reasonable prediction, because it applies to how the system works within some degree of equilibrium, not how two systems will compare when the parameters that influence that equilibrium are changed (i.e. more CO2, or a different tilt to the earth, or any other factor that has a sudden unexpected change on climate equilibrium).
In fact, Paleoclimatology tells us that 3C is quite within the range of variations one might expect, and possibly even a low estimate.
The bottom line is that deniers want to believe that we will be saved by magic, that somewhere Mother Nature has a secret negative feedback waiting to save us from ourselves. “Alarmists” don’t want to trust to magic.
The real bottom line? Your statement that “…there is no physics-based reason to assume that increasing CO2 will make any difference to the global temperature, and the Constructal Law gives us reason to think that it may make no difference at all.” is a flat out lie. The physics based reason is very simple to understand and would require an act of God to alter, and deniers only offer magic as their main argument that it is wrong.

Olen
December 28, 2009 10:10 am

Good idea to present the evidence in some articles in terms the public can easily read and understand.

P Gosselin
December 28, 2009 10:11 am

I think Joe Bastardi ought to have a guest post here at WUWT.
Read the link I provided above.
It’s going to be 2 weeks of hell for warmists! My favourite Joe qoate:
“…but just as climategate woke some up to what some of us already knew, now the weather is piling on.”
Joe, thanks for making my day!

REPLY: Joe’s work contract for AccuWeather Inc prevents him from doing this I think .-A

Dave Johnson
December 28, 2009 10:13 am

An excellent article Mr Eschenbach, one that even I could easily grasp

Clive
December 28, 2009 10:15 am

Oooh .. a wee bit edgy today are we TB? Good heavens.
Time for some popcorn and sit back and watch the show. ☺
This is gonna be good.

RJ
December 28, 2009 10:20 am

Par5: “Arrhenius also concluded that the sun was made of coal, and that the earth was less than ten thousand years old.”
Can Par5 or anyone else provide a reference for this? Does anyone here doubt or dispute the claim?

Galen Haugh
December 28, 2009 10:21 am

ThinkingBeing (10:02:11) :
So you’re saying these “models” of yours can forecast anything when they can’t even backcast anything?
Amazing. Now THAT’s magic!

Back2bat
December 28, 2009 10:22 am

Whatever happened to Gaia?
Can it be she’s not?
Or did she leave the kitchen
when it got too hot?
I never believed in Gaia
but she kept the pagans quiet.
Now, a little heat or cold
and they start to riot.

December 28, 2009 10:22 am


Louis Hissink (01:18:22) :
..
Take a dust devil – a small scale cyclonic peturbation of air which darts about unpredictably on the Earth’s surface. While I look in awe at these things when out in the field doing my day job (basically drilling holes into geophysical targets for minerals), trying to work out how to get a measurement of it’s electrical properties is night well impossible – the dang thing won’t stand still, for a start.
=

The device you seek to accomplish this is an electrometer; a device capable of measuring a static (non-changing) electric field at a distance.
An exposition of the method and some studies:
Measurement of Atmospheric Electricity During
Different Meteorological Conditions

Build one: RIDICULOUSLY SENSITIVE ELECTRIC CHARGE DETECTOR
.
.

Invariant
December 28, 2009 10:25 am

leftymartin (22:55:00): at the state of Maximum Entropy Production
Exactly! The Principles of Maximum Entropy Production is equivalent to the Principle of Minimum Energy Dissipation¹ and is frequently seen in physics, chemistry and biology:
http://www.rsbs.anu.edu.au/ResearchGroups/EBG/profiles/Roderick_Dewar/Martyushev%20and%20Seleznev%202006%20Phys%20Rep.pdf
¹1968 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Lars Onsager (1931) http://www.csee.wvu.edu/~xinl/library/papers/physics/Onsager1931.pdf

George E. Smith
December 28, 2009 10:30 am

“”” Phil. (07:21:49) :
[Reply: You are welcome to submit your own article explaining how well computer climate models work. ~dbstealey, mod.]
My friend’s computer model was used to design all the wings of Boeing aircraft since the 767 in the 70’s, which is as relevant as Willis’s analogies! Water flowing downhill tries to get there as fast as possible which would mean following a brachistochrone and this is supposed to tell us something about the response of the climate to CO2? (By the way Willis a response of 3º to a doubling of [CO2] is not a “simple linear relationship”, it’s logarithmic). “””
Well it seems to me that geologic history suggests that Total range of CO2 concentration in earth’s atmosphere is about 26:1 from about 7000 ppm down to about 270, which is less than five doublings; so if the temperature goes as the logarithm of the CO2, then that would be less than a 15 deg C change in temperature over all geological time.
I’m not aware of any change in earth’s mean temperature since the Cambrian
amounting to anything like 15 degrees C; nor of any parallel plots showing them tracking logarithmically; nor of any physical cause and effect process, that would relate them logarithmically. The records of human history would not seem to cover even a single octave of such a logarithmic relationship; not even a half of an octave.
On the other hand for the very small changes in CO2 that are closely monitored these days, at places like Mauna Loa, the logarithm of the CO2 change would seem to be very little different from unity; and given that Ln(1+x) is approximately x, that would seem to make the relationship at least as close to linear, as it is to logarithmic.
May I suggest Phil, that the presumed logarithmic connection between CO2 abundance in the atmosphere, and global mean temperature, is more a figment of the presumption of the reality of the concept of “climate sensitivity”, than it is of any operating physics.
The relationship is evidently logarithmic, because the inventor of “Climate sensitivity” (izzat Steven Schneider of Stanford?) said so; and given that the “radiative forcing” (hate that word) due to CO2 trapping of surface emitted LWIR radiation, must vary by over an order of magnitude simply due to the temperature change from place to place on the earth’s surface; it would seem to me that the “Climate Sensitivity” is hardly deserving of the same Fundamental Physical Constant status, of say the Fine Structure Constant.

December 28, 2009 10:30 am


Mike M (06:10:48) :
Meandering rivers is a great analogy. We should challenge James Hansen to write a computer model to predict river meandering! With fewer variables, it HAS to be simpler than predicting climate …

IF it weren’t for the repeated deposition/movement of sediments, the blocking of normal ‘flow’ by ice jams leading to the opening of new ‘bends’ in the river … a cinch!
.
.

shellback
December 28, 2009 10:31 am

That sulphur smell!
Maxwells Demon flitting about?

crosspatch
December 28, 2009 10:31 am

I would say that Bastardi is a more fun read than Masters over at Weather Underground who seems to bang the AGW drum at every opportunity.

Andy Y
December 28, 2009 10:33 am

Phil. (07:21:49) So what if you can model the air flow past a wing on a Boeing 767. Still doesn’t apply to a computer model for the climate system does it? And Willis’ point on the downhill flow of the stream is that it’s ever changing and difficult to study with a simple “model”.
Roger Sowell: You didn’t dispute anything I said. You simply attempted to change narrow the definition of flow. But even then you’re wrong. All molecules “move” when heat is transferred by any method. Does an entire block of metal move? No, but the surface molecules move a bit and so do each successive layer of molecules as the heat is transferred through it. And regarding the Earth. The oceans move, the air moves, the ground moves, the earth rotates, revolves, and wobbles but that isn’t flow to you because the earth itself doesn’t really change size and shape like a liquid? Then you further attempt to say that because plate tectonics have a long time scale that they don’t count? Seriously? That’s your defense?

grumpy old man
December 28, 2009 10:35 am

ThinkingBeing (10:02:11) :
The analogies aren’t perfect, but they are sufficient to show that shining some lights on two bottles, one containing air, and another mostly CO2 doesn’t prove global warming is caused by CO2. The “deniers” are just trying to get the “zealots” off their soap boxes and back to real scientific discussion.

December 28, 2009 10:38 am

(21:25:35)
REPLY: “weather” is known to be chaotic. Climate is a long term collection of weather events, so it stands to reason that it is also chaotic, but on a longer, slower time scale. – Anthony
Or perhaps:
Take weather as a white noise input to an amplitude limiter , followed by a band-pass filter (the global atmosphere), low-pass filter (oceans), these two in parallel of course, fed into an op-amp with a variable long delay feedback loop (global ocean conveyor belt as in here:
http://www.anl.gov/Media_Center/Frontiers/2003/images/d8ee2.jpg)
add one year seasons’ sine-wave modulator, inject a bit of DC (90 minus latitude), and hay presto you may get something that looks like climate, whatever that might be.

DocMartyn
December 28, 2009 10:39 am

Kacser and Burns, in 1973, examined the control of fluxes in their formalized Metabolic control Analysis. A similar mathematical approach can be applied to heat fluxes in the oceans and atmosphere. Before this time many biochemists had believed that they could take rate constants, measured at or near equilibrium, and apply them to systems that had thermodynamics of an irreversible nature. Needless to say, no kineticist would every attempt to model an irreversible thermodynamic pathways using equilibrium thermodynamic models, unlike Climate Scientists, we have learned to describe quasi-steady states as quasi-steady states and not as stanp-shots of an equilibrium. The classical energy flux diagrams used by the Climate people:-
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/58/Greenhouse_Effect.svg/750px-Greenhouse_Effect.svg.png
are similar to the late 60’s and early 70’s descriptions of metabolic fluxes, with ‘KEY’ rate liming steps and saturating concentrations of substrates. That world has gone, and was gone when undergraduates were taught in the early 80’s.

J.Peden
December 28, 2009 10:40 am

ThinkingBeing (10:02:11) :
Ok, if what you just said is correct, why hasn’t water vapor alone already done the same thing? Why does CO2 do what water vapor couldn’t do? If water vapor alone couldn’t do what CO2 does, why would water vapor help CO2?

December 28, 2009 10:40 am

Oversimplifying the subject makes it easier to spoon-feed to the MSM and schoolchildren: “CO2 is a greenhouse gas. Greenhouse gases trap heat. The more CO2 there is in the atmosphere, the hotter the planet will get.” There you have it. The entire planet’s climate system neatly summed up in three sentences, and ready for an elementary school lesson plan on global warming. No need to muddle it up with variables like ocean currents, solar cycles, water vapor, and other things that are hard to explain. It’s a simple system, explained by elementary physics, and omnipotent Man controls the whole thing. And the whole theory is backed up by something as infallible as computer software, so there’s no sense questioning it.

George E. Smith
December 28, 2009 10:40 am

Meanwhile, back at the JAXA ice coverage plot, we finally made it to 12E6 squ km about on Christmas Day I think; and right now it looks like we are ahead of both 2008 and 2007, so 14E6 by spring equinox seems likely. We might even have some multiyear ice left too.

Jimmy Haigh
December 28, 2009 10:41 am

Galen Haugh (09:40:25) :
“I’ve said knowledge is like a circle: As the diameter of your knowledge increases, the circumference of your ignorance enlarges that much more.”
I like that. I’ve always said that the more you learn, the more you realise how little you know.
But then again I’m not as smart as your average climate scientist – they had the science settled long ago.

December 28, 2009 10:42 am

I find it hard to believe that people don’t see something is happening.

December 28, 2009 10:42 am

Sorry! Link got corrupted by the bracket at the end. Here it is again:
http://www.anl.gov/Media_Center/Frontiers/2003/d8ee2.html

JP
December 28, 2009 10:44 am

George Smith,
You did a nice pithy summary of CO2 as a climate forcing agent; however, you did leave out one thing. That one of the signatures of CO2 induced AGW is a mid-tropespheric tropical hot spot. The lack of one even bothers Gavin Schmidt.

Jim
December 28, 2009 10:46 am

****
ThinkingBeing (10:02:11) :
****
I get the “being” part. But I’m not seeing much thinking.

Alex
December 28, 2009 10:47 am

Quote from Willis, the author:
“I take a sheet of plywood, and I cover it with some earth. I tilt it up so it slopes from one edge to the other. For our thought experiment, we’ll imagine that this is a hill that goes down to the ocean.
I place a steel ball at the top edge of the earth-covered plywood, and I watch what happens. It rolls, as simple physics predicts, straight down to the lower edge. I try it with a wooden ball, and get the same result. I figure maybe it’s because of the shape of the object.
So I make a small wooden sled, and put it on the plywood. Again, it slides straight down to the ocean. I try it with a miniature steel shed, same result. It goes directly downhill to the ocean as well. Simple physics, understood by Isaac Newton.
As a final test, I take a hose and I start running some water down from the top edge of my hill to make a model river. To my surprise, although the model river starts straight down the hill, it soon starts to wander. Before long, it has formed a meandering stream, which changes its course with time.”
End of quote.
Would that it were so.
Is it so? I doubt it.
The behaviour of balls, sledges, etc. on a rough but displaceable terrain is erractic, as is the initial behaviour of a stream of water on such a terrain. My guess is that in reality it will only be the stream of water that finds the shortest path from top to bottom, and it does so once it has displaced the soil. The meandering effect requires not water but an unstable suspension of material in water. The meandering effect would occur if one was to flow such a suspension over a clean board providing the flow was slow enough, but a flow of water alone would tend to clean a path with the steepest gradient.
Perhaps it would be better, and clearer, to leave the soil off the board to begin with, and compare balls, etc., with the flow of a suspension of silt in water. Then the balls would behaviour in a simple fashion and the suspension in the desired complex fashion.
Please take this in the friendly way it is intended.
Alex

Invariant