# No new strange attractors: strong evidence against both positive feedback and catastrophe

This is a comment by Dr. Robert Brown on the What we don’t know about Earth’s energy flow post. I thought it was so insightful on the topic of climate stability being “pushed” by CO2 forcing that I’ve elevated it to a separate post. – Anthony

Is it fair to say that the two systems would oscillate within the same parameters but the probability of them being synchronized is nil?

Sadly, no, not over long times. The systems could be as different as a ferromagnet magnetized up and an “identical” ferromagnet magnetized down. Or in the case of the Earth, as different as Glacial Earth and Interglacial Earth. The point is that both of these latter possibilities can be “stable” states for exactly the same insolation, etc, because feedbacks in the global system can themselves reconfigure to make them stable.

If you look at the link to chaos theory I provided, and look at the figure that shows two loopy braids of lines, that provides an heuristic picture of the kind of possibilities available to coupled nonlinear differential systems.

At the heart of each loop is something called a “strange attractor”, which is typically a limit point. The x and y axes are coordinates in a generalized (phase) space that represent the state of the system at any given time, x(t),y(t). The lines themselves are the trajectory of the system over time moving under the influence of the underlying dynamics. The point of the figure is that instead of their being a single “orbit” the way the earth orbits a regular attractor like the sun, the system oscillates around one attractor for a time, then the other, then both. Instead of nice closed orbits the orbits themselves are almost never the same.

Two trajectories that are started close to one another will usually start out, for a while, orbiting the attractors the same general way. But over time — often a remarkably short time — the two trajectories will diverge. One will flip over to the other attractor and the other won’t. After a remarkably short time, the two trajectories are almost completely decorrelated in that the knowledge of where one lies (in the general accessible phase space) provides one with no help at all in guessing the location of the other.

It’s only in this final sense that you are correct. Either system has to be found in the space of physically consistent states, states that are accessible via the differential process from the starting points. There is no guarantee that the trajectories will “fill phase space”. So in this sense they are both going to be found within the phase space accessible from the starting points. If those two starting points are close enough, they will probably sample very similar phase spaces, but there is no guarantee that they will be identical — especially if there are (many) more than two attractors, and if some simple parameter. In stat mech, with different assumptions, there is a theorem to that regard, but in the general case of open system dynamics in a chaotic system, IFAIK no.

If you are interested in this sort of thing (which can be fun to play with, actually) you can look up things like the “predator-prey differential equations”, e.g.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lotka%E2%80%93Volterra_equation

IIRC this is one of the simplest systems exhibiting an attractor and limit cycle, and illustrates many of the features of more complicated dynamical systems. The attractor/fixed point in this case is the population of e.g. foxes and rabbits that remains in perfect equilibrium from year to year. Note well that this equation is deterministic, but of course a real population — even being modelled — always has random (or at least, “unpredictable”) variations — a certain amount of noise — and is actually discretized and not continuous as one cannot have half a cheetah eating \pi baboons.

A better continuous “kind” of differential equation for describing systems like this with noise is something called a Langevin equation in physics — a system with “fast” microscopic degrees of freedom that one accounts for on average with a stochastic term, and slower degrees of freedom one integrates out like the predator prey equation. In physics it is a special limiting case of something called a generalized Master equation, which is the full integrodifferential description of a many body open quantum system and is really, really difficult. The general approach, however, is not inapplicable here — and is a presumed part of most of the simplified climate models. When you “smooth” the temperature by e.g. doing a running average, you are giving up information (the short time variation) and trying to reduce the complexity of the system by focussing on the slower time scale dynamics.

If the system really is simple — has a single attractor and is in a very regular oscillation around it where the “noise” one is smoothing out really is irrelevant and just adds small variation to a single trajectory — this is probably OK. If the system is multistable and has many locally stable points, or worse if some of the degrees of freedom are things like the Sun whose time evolution is completely outside of “the system” and whose future you cannot predict and whose effect you do not precisely know, so that the attractors themselves can be moving around as the system evolves locally — it is probably not OK.

The symptom of the latter kind of multistable system where it is probably not OK is a series of punctuated equilibria, visible in the smoothed data. The 30 year satellite data and SST data fairly clearly shows this kind of behavior.

One final very important point — systems that oscillate almost always have negative feedback. In fact, that is the fundamental thing that defines an oscillatory system — it has attractors in it. Attractors are themselves stable (equilibrium) points such that if the system is perturbed from them it is pulled back towards equilibrium, not pushed away from it. In the general case of attractors in high dimensional spaces, this leads to the (Poincare) cycles around the attractors visible in the predator-prey equations or the Chaos figure with two strange attractors, except that they can get very, very complicated (and difficult to visualize) in 3+ dimensional spaces (where I’m not talking about physical spaces, note well, but parametric “phase” spaces, state spaces). Within some neighborhood of an attractor there is generally a fair bit of local stability — trajectories in that neighborhood will oscillate tightly around the one attractor and will be relatively unlikely to switch over to other attractors. Hence glacial and interglacial periods tend to last a fairly long time (compared to all of the many shorter timescales available to the system.

Moving a single underlying external parameter — e.g. anthropogenic CO_2 concentration, Solar state, geomagnetic state — can be thought of as moving the fixed points of the multistable system. If we linearize, we can often guess at least the direction of the first order direction of the movement. For example, more CO_2, given the greenhouse effect, should increase heat trapping, hence increase average global temperature. The stable fixed point should thus move a bit up in the warming direction.

Nearly all of the argument “revolves” (in more ways than one:-) around two simple problems, and note that I’m presenting them in a very different way than usual:

a) Is this linear response assumption valid? This is not a trivial question. Increased CO_2 in a multistable system doesn’t just move the local attractor, it moves all the attractors, and not necessarily in simple linear ways in a really complicated system with many negative feedbacks (there by hypothesis all over the place because the system is dominated by attractors). In many systems, there are conservation principles at work (not necessarily known ones) that act as constraints so that moving one attractor up moves another one down or increases the “barrier height” between two attractors and hence deforms all of the limit cycles.

b) Is the response the order of the mean difference between attractors being predominantly sampled within the system already? If it is greater, then it is likely not just to move the current attractor but to kick the system over to a new attractor. And it may not be the attractor you expect, one on the warmer side of the previous one. More warming, as warmists state in more heuristic terms, can make the system oscillate more wildly and hence be both warmer at the warmest part of the oscillation and colder at the coldest part of the oscillation. If the new excursion of the oscillation is great enough, it can kick the system into oscillation around a new attractor altogether on either side of things.

Note that this latter statement is still oversimplified as it makes it sound like there are only two directions, warmer and cooler. But that is not true. There is warmer with morewater vapor in the atmosphere, warmer with less water vapor in the atmosphere, warmer with the sun active, warmer with the sun not active, warmer with sea ice increasing, warmer with sea ice decreasing, warmer with more clouds, warmer with less clouds, and the clouds in question can be day side or night side clouds, arctic or antarctic clouds, in the summer, fall, winter or spring, really month by month if not day by day, with feedbacks everywhere — tweaking any single aspect of this cycle affects all of the rest, and I haven’t even begun to list all of the important dimensions or note that there are really important time scales with nearly periodic oscillation of many of these drivers, or noted that the underlying dynamics takes place on a spinning globe that generates airflow vortices as standard operating procedure that have lifetimes ranging from days to decades.

I have argued in posts above that the punctuated quasi-equilibrium evident in the climate record makes it very likely that the answer to b) is yes. The anthropogenic CO_2 shifts the system by order of or more than the distance between attractors, simply because the system jumped around between attractors even during time periods when there was no anthropogenic CO_2. Furthermore, the excursion of the system as it wandered among the attractors was as great as it is today, and not qualitatively different.

This strongly suggests that while the the linear response assumption made in a) may be valid (per attractor) — or may not, but it will be a huge problem to prove it — the effect is less than the natural excursion, not greater than the natural excursion, and the negative feedback factors that make the multistable attractors (locally) attractive also act as negative feedback on the CO_2 induced shift!

The latter is the fluctuation-dissipation theorem, as I already noted in one thread or another (two tired of writing to go see if it was this one). In an open system in a locally stable phase, the oscillations (fluctuations) couple to the dissipation so that more fluctuation makes more dissipation — negative feedback. If this is not true, the locally stable phase is not stable.

This is a strong argument against catastrophe! The point is that given that CO_2 is making only small, slow, local shifts of the attractors compared to the large shifts of the system between the attractors, if there was a point where the system was likely to fall over to a much warmer stable point — the “catastrophe” threatened by the warmists — it almost certainly would have already done it, as the phase oscillations over the last ten thousand years have on numerous occasions made it as warm as it is right now.

The fact that this has not happened is actually enormously strong evidence against both positive feedback and catastrophe. Yes, anthropogenic CO_2 may have shifted all the attractor temperatures a bit higher, it may have made small rearrangements of the attractors, but there is no evidence that suggests that it is probably going to suddenly create at new attractor far outside of the normal range of variation already visible in the climate record. Is it impossible? Of course not. But it is not probable.

I’ll close with an analogy. When physicists were getting ready to test the first nuclear bomb, there was some concern expressed by the less gifted physicists present that in doing so they might “ignite the Earth’s atmosphere” or somehow turn the Earth into a Sun (note that this was before there was any understanding of fusion — the sun’s energy cycle was still not understood). I’ve read (far more recently) some concern that collisions at the LHC could have the same effect — create a mini-black hole or the like that swallows the Earth.

Both of these are silly fears (although offered up, note well, by real scientists, because they could see that these outcomes were possible, at least in principle) and here’s why.

The temperature and pressure created by the nuclear bomb is not unique! Although it is rare, asteroids fall to the earth, and when they do they create pressures and temperatures much higher than those produced by nuclear bombs. A very modest sized asteroid can release more energy in a few milliseconds than tens of thousands of times the total explosive energy of all of the man-made explosives, including nuclear bombs, on Earth! In a nutshell, if it could happen (with any reasonable probability), it already would have happened.

Ditto the fears associated with the LHC, or other “super” colliders. Sure, it generates collisions on the order of electron-teravolts, but this sort of energy in nuclear collisions is not unique! The Earth is constantly being bombarded by high energy particles given off by extremely energetic events like supernovae that happened long ago and far away. The energies of these cosmic rays are vastly greater than anything we will ever be able to produce in the laboratory until the laboratory in question contains a supernova. The most energetic cosmic ray ever observed (so far) was a (presumably) proton with the kinetic energy of a fastball-pitched baseball, a baseball travelling at some 150 kilometers per hour. Since we’ve seen one of these in a few decades of looking, we have to assume that they happen all the time — literally every second a cosmic ray of this sort of energy is hitting the Earth (BIG target) somewhere. If such a collision could create a black hole that destroyed planets with any significant probability, we would have been toast long, long ago.

Hence it is silly to fear the LHC or nuclear ignition. If either were probable, we wouldn’t be here to build an LHC or nuclear bomb.

It is not quite that silly to fear CAGW. The truth is that we haven’t been around long enough to know enough about the climate system to be able to tell what sorts of feedbacks and factors structure the multistable climate attractors, so one can create a number of doomsday scenarios — warming to a critical point that releases massive amounts of methane that heats things suddenly so that the ocean degasses all of its CO_2 and the ice caps melt and the oceans boil and suddenly there we are, Venus Earth with a mean temperature outside of 200 C. If we can imagine it and write it down, it must be possible, right? Science fiction novels galore explore just that sort of thing. Or movies proposing the opposite — the appearance of attractors that somehow instantly freeze the entire planet and bring about an ice age. Hey! It could happen!

But is it probable?

Here is where the argument above provides us with a great deal of comfort. There is little in the climate record to suggest the existence of another major stable state, another major attractor, well above the current warm phase attractor. Quite the opposite — the record over the last few tens of millions of years suggest that we are in the middle of a prolonged cooling phase of the planet, of the sort that has happened repeatedly over geological time, such that we are in the warm phase major attractor, and that there is literally nothing out there above it to go to. If there were, we would have gone there, instead, as local variations and oscillation around the many> minor warm phase attractors has repeatedly sampled conditions that would have been likely to cause a transition to occur if one was at all likely. At the very least, there would be a trace of it in the thermal record of the last million years or thereabouts, and there isn’t. We’re in one of the longest, warmest interglacials of the last five, although not at the warmest point of the current interglacial (the Holocene). If there were a still warmer attractor out there, the warmest point of the Holocene would have been likely to find it.

Since it manifestly did not, that suggests that the overall feedbacks are safely negative and all of the “catastrophe” hypotheses but one are relatively unlikely.

The one that should be worrisome? Catastrophic Global Cooling. We know that there is a cold phase major attractor some 5-10C cooler than current temperatures. Human civilization arose in the Holocene, and we have not yet advanced to where it can survive a cold phase transition back to glacial conditions, not without the death of 5 billion people and probable near-collapse of civilization. We know that this transition not only can occur, but will occur. We do not know when, why, or how to estimate its general probability. We do know that the LIA — a mere 400-500 years ago — was the coolest period in the entire Holocene post the Younger Dryas excursion; in general the Holocene appears to be cooling from its warmest period, and the twentieth century was a Grand Solar Maximum, the most active sun in 11,000 years, a maximum that is now clearly past.

IMO we are far more likely to be hanging out over an instability in which a complete transition to cold phase becomes uncomfortably likely than we are to be near a transition to a superwarm phase that there is no evidence of in the climate record. The probability is higher for two reasons. One is that unlike the superwarm phase, we know that the cold phase actually exists, and is a lot more stable than the warm phase. The “size” of the quasistable Poincare cycle oscillations around the cold phase major attractor is much larger than that around the warm phase attractors, and brief periods of warming often get squashed before turning into actual interglacials — that’s how stable they are.

The other is that we spend 90% of the time in glacial phase, only 10% in interglacial, and the Holocene is already one of the longer interglacials! There is dynamics on long timescales that we do not understand at work here. We have only the foggiest idea of what causes the (essentially chaotic) transition from warm phase to cold phase or vice versa — very crude ideas involving combinations of Milankovich cycles, the tipping of the ecliptic, the precession of the poles, orbital resonances, and stuff like that, but there is clearly a strong feedback within the climate cycle that enables cold phase “tipping”, probably related to albedo.

It could be something as simple as a quiet sun; the LIA-Maunder minimum suggests that we should actively fear a quiet sun, because something in the nonlinear differential system seems to favor colder attractors (still in the warm phase major attractor) during Maunder-type minima. One has to imagine that conversion to glaciation phase is more likely at the bottom of e.g. the LIA than at any other time, and the Holocene is probably living on borrowed time at this point, where a prolonged LIA-like interval could tip it over.

To be honest, even a LIA would be a disaster far greater than most of the warmist catastrophic imaginings. The population of the world is enormous compared to what it was in the last ice age, and a huge fraction of it lives and grows food on temperate zone land. Early frost and late spring could both reduce the available land and halve the number of crops grown on the land that survives, even before full blown glaciation. Cold (warm) phases are often associated with temperature/tropic droughts, as well, at least in parts of the world. IMO, the “rapid” onset of a LIA could kill a billion people as crops in Siberia and China and Canada and the northern US fail, and could easily destabilize the world’s tenuous political situation to where global war again becomes likely to add to our woes.

We may ultimately discover that AGW was our salvation — the CO_2 released by our jump to civilization may ameliorate or postpone the next LIA, it may block cold-phase excursion that could begin the next REAL ice age for decades or even a century. In the meantime, perhaps we can get our act together and figure out how to live together in a civilized world, not a few civilized countries where people are well off and all the rest where they are poor and more or less enslaved by a handful of tyrants or religious oligarchs.

Note well, this latter bit is itself “speculative fiction” — I don’t fully understand climate cycles either (it’s a hard problem). But at least there I can provide evidence for a lurking catastrophe in the actual climate record, so it is a lot less “fiction” than CAGW.

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Curiousgeorge
January 9, 2012 4:14 pm

Hmmm. Should be an interesting thread. Heavy duty math. May I offer a program for those who wish to explore the subject? http://www.fractint.org/

Philip Peake
January 9, 2012 4:14 pm

That was an *extremely* good read. Thank you.

January 9, 2012 4:23 pm

A very interesting article. My only comment is that there is in fact no warming effect from carbon dioxide because it has been proved by Professors Claes Johnson (1) and Nasif Nahle (2) that backradiation cannot warm the surface. But there could be a cooling effect due to carbon dioxide, so the reference to the next “Little Ice Age” (which I suspect could happen within 450 to 600 years) does become perhaps a greater concern.
(1) http://www.csc.kth.se/~cgjoh/blackbodyslayer.pdf

Theo Goodwin
January 9, 2012 4:28 pm

Thanks for a fascinating post, Dr. Brown. Interesting thing about genuine science, it reveals all the questions that remain to be answered. Recognizing our ignorance is the beginning of knowledge.

Lew Skannen
January 9, 2012 4:31 pm

Interesting article and one which I think needs to be promoted. I doubt that many people really understand the implications of the fact that the climate is a chaotic system. Most reports in the media give the impression that all effects are linear and that if we add a bit of this the temperature goes up or down a little bit etc. Linear thinking seems to be the default amongst the general public. Few people therefore realise the significance of small errors in measurement or approximations in models. (ie they render the models worthless over a long time span.)
On a bit of a tangent I have followed the wiki page on Chaos Theory which is cited here. It is interesting to note that in 2007 it included the sentence:
“Chaotic behavior can be observed in many natural systems, such as the weather an climate”
at some stage this was truncated to read:
“Chaotic behavior can be observed in many natural systems, such as the weather”
The word ‘climate’ was removed.
Perhaps it was not covered by the reference cited. Reference [5]
Let’s have a look…
[5]Sneyers Raymond (1997). “Climate Chaotic Instability: Statistical Determination and Theoretical Background”. Environmetrics 8 (5): 517–532.

mpaul
January 9, 2012 4:35 pm

Maybe said another way — we have a strong record of two stable states: a glacial state and an interglacial state. The Warmist argue that the injection of a small amount of C02 will tip the climate into a third state — one that we have never seen in the geologic record for millions and millions of years — a state of runaway warming, a ‘bath-house earth’ state. If a doubling of CO2 could lead to such a state, then why haven’t we seen it in the past when CO2 levels were higher? The answer is that a third stable state is very, very hard to achieve, and a little bit of CO2 isn’t enough to get there.

ZZZ
January 9, 2012 4:54 pm

There may just be a long-term cycle — a slight variation — in the solar output causing the transition between ice age and interglacial. The coincidence in length between the Milankovich orbital cycles and the ice-age cycles could have very little to do with the transition between ice age and interglacial. After all, these orbital cycles presumably have been going on through out most of the earth’s existence, but the current transition between ice age and interglacial is, geologically speaking, a very recent development indeed.

Nick in Vancouver
January 9, 2012 4:57 pm

Elegantly put, a modern rewording of Fred Hoyles’ 1999 essay. When I put the observation that the “steady state” of the climate is most likely “ice age” and that the geological record suggests a slowly rambling not quite random walk into the next I get blank stares. Most of the eco-zealots I have crossed lap-tops with, on newspaper and blog comments, have never heard of the Younger Dryas cooling event and accuse me of making it up – bizarre. One commenter was even brazen enough to admit, on-line, that he/she was a university professor – God help us all – as he/she avoided the implications that the natural climate variation operating over the last 2 million years are still operating today. He/she could simply not conceive of a colder world, I assumed after years of brainwashing. The only word to describe that response ironically is “denial”.
We are bumbling along oblivious to and ignorant of the climate system mechanisms that produced 10 degrees C cooling in 50 years, was it terrestrial or extraterrestrial? Anyone? Come on, it was only a few thousand years ago. Here is a radical idea – let’s spend several billion dollars to solve something of clear and previous danger. As the above suggests, any loss of insolation by natural or man made causes can have the real risk of tipping our Holocene into protracted cooling. Lets hope Katla keeps sleeping.

crosspatch
January 9, 2012 4:58 pm

Thank you, for this, Dr. Brown. You have articulated much better than I have been able to why we should actively fear that cold attractor. It’s there, it’s the “normal” state, it would be a disaster with today’s global population (and weapons technology), and we seem to be sliding slowly in that direction with every passing cool period.
I also believe that I know what might be the thing that provides the hysteresis that allows us to “stick” for a while in the interglacial phase. I believe that thing is Arctic Ocean summer ice cover. When we are in a glacial, we get brief sudden increases in temperature but they don’t “stick” for long, in the last interglacial the interstadials would last maybe a couple of hundred years and the transition into them would be very rapid, usually within a decade, with a slow cooling out of them. I would speculate that we have something like what happens when we have a solar grand maximum, temperatures warm quickly probably due to a sudden decrease in cloud cover and increase in solar UV, but summer insolation isn’t enough to result in an ice-free Arctic Ocean. Sooner or later we get one of these interstadial warming periods when summer insolation is sufficient to result in an ice free summer Arctic Ocean (even though the surrounding land masses may be still under thousands of feet of ice). When that happens, the albedo of Earth undergoes a massive change and the Arctic Ocean gets 24hr sunshine. That is when I believe we see temperatures rapidly rise out of the glacial period into the interglacial.
I would be willing to bet that about 5000 years ago the amount of summer ice in the Arctic began to increase, overall, with some increases and decreases along the way. All it is going to take, I think, to slip us back into another glacial period is sufficient summer Arctic ice cover that does not melt and keeps the polar region with a significant albedo. I also believe this process is more gradual as we slip into the glacial period than the coming out of it is. In other words, when we have high insolation of the NH *and* we have one of these sudden warming periods, we get enough “punch” to melt the Arctic ice in summer and “flip” the system to the other attractor. It remains this way until insolation begins to decline (starting in earnest about 5000 years ago) increasing the amount of summer ice in the Arctic and we gradually begin to cool into the glacial period. What it takes to “flip” the system back to the other attractor, I believe, is a solar grand minimum where we have finally get a summer with nearly a full Arctic ice pack and not enough insolation when we come out of that grand minimum to melt it again in the face of the now-increased albedo.
I believe the thing that tips us back and forth between stable phases is Arctic Ocean summer ice cover. THAT is the one thing we should be afraid of, in my opinion.

eyesonu
January 9, 2012 5:05 pm

If you haven’t followed the article on Dr. Browns earlier post / comment here on WUWT “What we don’t know about Earth’s energy flow” as linked in this leading post / article, then you should do so. Read Dr. Brown’s comments in that article. There is a lot to be gained.

eyesonu
January 9, 2012 5:10 pm

Theo Goodwin says:
January 9, 2012 at 4:28 pm
Thanks for a fascinating post, Dr. Brown. Interesting thing about genuine science, it reveals all the questions that remain to be answered. Recognizing our ignorance is the beginning of knowledge.
============
That deserves repeating!

January 9, 2012 5:10 pm

Excellent! Much better than my feeble attempts. I have been arguing for along time that a sensitivity range from near maximum to possible maximum without even considering the approximate minimum, glacial, is pretty silly. I guess it chops off too many long tails 🙂

Paul Penrose
January 9, 2012 5:19 pm

I have been making this same basic argument for years, however yours was more articulate and detailed. Good luck getting traction with it; I kept getting “But you’re not a climate scientist” rebuttals. My answer was that one did not have to be a mathematician to know that 2 + 2 = 4. A condescending look and a dismissive remark is the usual response.

January 9, 2012 5:21 pm

I concur with eyesonu- “review Dr. Brown’s earlier posts in Earths energy flow post” The math is getting a bit past what I am comfortable with…………
Moderators, it might be nice to have a reference to Dr. Brown’s earlier posts- the first I am aware of is http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/12/02/foia-is-not-enough-why-not-legally-mandate-transparency-in-climate-research-a-modest-proposal/ In that post this site was noted-
http://fds.duke.edu/db/aas/Physics/faculty/rgb

Anything is possible
January 9, 2012 5:23 pm

Amazing how different climate science looks when you add in a healthy dose of good old-fashioned common sense…..

crosspatch
January 9, 2012 5:31 pm

“I kept getting “But you’re not a climate scientist” rebuttals.”
Yeah, funny how that argument comes out or not depending on which side of the issue you argue. Of course, Hansen isn’t a “climate scientist” either, he’s an astrophysicist. Anyone is permitted to argue in favor of (super) catastrophic (expialidocious) anthropogenic global warming, but only “qualified” (not “discredited) climate scientists are allowed to question it. But the moment you question it, you slip from “climate scientist” to “discredited climate scientist”.
It would be hilarious if the whole thing weren’t so expensive.

kim
January 9, 2012 5:59 pm

We are cooling, folks; for how long even kim doesn’t know.
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Robert M
January 9, 2012 5:59 pm

Awesome read, Doc Brown!
And
Dang!!! Seven semesters of math in college and no chaos. 🙁

DirkH
January 9, 2012 6:07 pm

Here’s another thought. CO2 is relatively well-mixed, but water vapor varies considerably more. If a catastrophe were possible, it would have happened already, starting in a place with momentarily high water vapor; positive water vapor feedback would infect the surrounding space. As the greenhouse effect would increase momentarily way more than through our CO2 emissions, the allegedly “unchartered territory” of the state space has in fact long been sampled by natural occurences.

Graeme
January 9, 2012 6:13 pm

Two scenarios going into the next glacial priod.
[1] CO2 levels plunge back down to the high 200s as cooling oceans inhale CO2…, and
[2] CO2 levels hold up at 400 (500…) ppm+ due to human industrial activity…
(note both presumptions may be and probably are wrong).
Scenario [2] will cut human population losses by a significant amount by supporting improved plant growth vs scenario [1].
I hope that anthropogenic CO2 enhancement of the atmosphere actually produces a new (higher) floor value to CO2 above 400, instead of the approx 270 ppm of the last glaciation.
Note that the human population bottlenecked in the last glacial period to approx 3000 individuals in Africa approx 60,000 years ago based on mitchondrial DNA studies. I.e. we almost died out.

markus
January 9, 2012 6:13 pm

Good read, so much so, I had to take a Bex and have a good lie down.
No way am I going to show this to my children.
“”The one that should be worrisome? Catastrophic Global Cooling. We know that there is a cold phase major attractor some 5-10C cooler than current temperatures. Human civilization arose in the Holocene, and we have not yet advanced to where it can survive a cold phase transition back to glacial conditions, not without the death of 5 billion people and probable near-collapse of civilization.””

January 9, 2012 6:27 pm

Dr. Brown didn’t say “The butterfly effect, the flapping wings of a butterfly in Australia can effect the weather in…” but that didn’t stop me from thinking about this analogy while reading his smashing post, then I began thinking about analogies, they crack me up! (in a good way) an opposing analogical argument which tends to be more complex than an original analogy (as put forward) is a good sign that some intellect was present in understanding the original analogy, dissecting it, understanding it’s principle, taking it outside the box and inferring that the opposing foregone conclusion couldn’t possibly be the correct one, as it stands, contradictorily so. Basically there is more than one side to a coin.
Just a thought!:)
One other thing, are we using “CO_2” as the term for Carbon dioxide? just wondering where it came from.

Robert of Ottawa
January 9, 2012 6:37 pm

Thing to remember is: Chaos theory applies to quantized phase space; not real space.
The whole concept of chaos theory developed when people started to study the effects of quantization and initial conditions upon computer models that depended upon numerical integration (Runge-Cutter et al.). Results of computer runs of these simulations differed greatly depending upon VERY SLIGHTLY different intitial conditions (which cannot be known precisely in the real world). It was by exploring these effects that mathematicians realized that it is not possible to project future trajectories of whatever parameter with any accuracy. The best possible was a projection of possible phase spaces, depending upon a range of variables, that could not be determined precisely.
Chaos theory is a theory that explains why “We don’t know eff!”

Robert of Ottawa
January 9, 2012 6:41 pm

Markus, we should let the enviromentlists go first 🙂

January 9, 2012 6:48 pm

Markus said, “No way am I going to show this to my children.”
There is one major difference between now and the beginning of the last glacial, more of mankind. So estimating losses based on the last versus what maybe the next far from possible. Land use changes and crop varieties alone are huge factors. So while we not not be able to survive a transition back to glacial conditions, we are not particularly likely to have the same glacial conditions which, by the way, are also theoretical and likely require another nonlinear nudge to be approximately what we think they were.
Western Siberia was supposedly a huge lake at some time during the last glacial, created by glacial ice damming up the the Russian rivers. Land use and water way use, icebreakers, would delay the growth of those glaciers which did not appear in just a decade or two. In the western hemisphere, roadways, cities, farmland that were once forest all change the rate at which snow albedo can grow. So catastrophic glaciation doom is likely to be over played as much as catastrophic global warming once science gets a hold of it.
Of course, wheat crops would suffer, so develop a taste for cornbread:)

DirkH
January 9, 2012 7:17 pm

Robert of Ottawa says:
January 9, 2012 at 6:37 pm
“Thing to remember is: Chaos theory applies to quantized phase space; not real space.”
No, I disagree.
“The whole concept of chaos theory developed when people started to study the effects of quantization and initial conditions upon computer models that depended upon numerical integration (Runge-Cutter et al.). ”
Ecologists have throughout the 70ies and 80ies tried to simulate Runge-Kutta systems, describing ecosystems, with classical cybernetics, using analog computing networks; these are not quantized in any way. They wanted to find equilibrium conditions but their models kept oscillating unpredictably. (one such researcher was George van Dyne)
Try to find a copy of
All watched over by machines of loving grace
Strictly speaking, a chaotic system requires infinite resolution of the state variables; as any limited resolution would lead to the system at some point in the future getting into a state where it already has been, leading to an endless loop. If your state variable has 32 bit, you run into an endless loop after at most 2^32 time steps. Only infinte resolution can prevent this in principle.

Rob Potter
January 9, 2012 7:23 pm

Thank you Dr Brown for a very lucid discussion of why things are improbable because they haven’t happened yet! That might seem a bit trite to some, but I work in a field of risk analysis where I have to address this issue a lot of the time. We can calculate probabilistic risks only when the hazard has actually occurred; we can examine hypothetical risks based on known mechanisms to create some hazard and address the individual parts of the mechanism for their probabilities (hoping to provide some level of probability); but speculative risks with no known mechanism to cause any hazard are completely beyond the bounds of analysis.
What Dr Brown has done here (in my simplistic understanding) is to use chaos theory to address hypothetical and – perhaps – speculative risks – i.e. those which have not occurred. By addressing the mechanisms for how CO_2 may affect climate and using the historical data to determine if these mechanisms might actually happen we can look at whether catastrophic warming has any likelihood at all. Obviously, it is the mechanisms which are critical here (and I am sure that warmists and skeptics will disagree on them), but the case made by the finding of it hasn’t happened yet is hard to go past.

January 9, 2012 7:41 pm

Sparks says:
January 9, 2012 at 6:27 pm
Dr. Brown didn’t say “The butterfly effect, the flapping wings of a butterfly in Australia can effect the weather in…”
Yes that is often told, but is not what Deterministic chaos is about and not what Lorenz meant. Lorenz referred to the strange attractor like the picture that Anthony added, these are deterministic paths in phase space.
But some (journalists ?) translated this into an actual butterfly making distortions. Such distortions are randomly created and non-deterministic, and not a part of the intrinsic attractor of the system. Chaos is a characteristic that lies within the non-linear system itself.
I enjoyed reading The Arrow Of Time by Peter Coveney recently. A big part of it deals with the connection between thermodynamics (Second Law), non-linear flow and chaos.

TRM
January 9, 2012 7:46 pm

” Graeme says:January 9, 2012 at 6:13 pm
Note that the human population bottlenecked in the last glacial period to approx 3000 individuals in Africa approx 60,000 years ago based on mitchondrial DNA studies. I.e. we almost died out.”
I believe it was mount Toba at 72,000 BC that almost did humanity in. Less than 10,000 world wide is the estimate I’ve seen from the DNA studies. Then we went as low as 170 PPM of CO2 and almost went extinct again. Just another 10-15% drop and we’d have been gone. Rollercoster ride this Earth is.
Great article Dr Brown. Thanks. I’m going to have to reread it because most was over my head but I love to read these things because it makes me think and learn.

DirkH
January 9, 2012 7:56 pm

Hans says:
January 9, 2012 at 7:41 pm
“Sparks says:
January 9, 2012 at 6:27 pm
Dr. Brown didn’t say “The butterfly effect, the flapping wings of a butterfly in Australia can effect the weather in…”
Yes that is often told, but is not what Deterministic chaos is about and not what Lorenz meant. Lorenz referred to the strange attractor like the picture that Anthony added, these are deterministic paths in phase space.
But some (journalists ?) translated this into an actual butterfly making distortions. ”
The butterfly analogy is not that bad – it shows a small perturbation having ever larger consequences. In the context of state variables, this corresponds to a left-bitshift of information; so with each round of the simulation, or with each timestep of the system, information creeps up from smaller decimals to larger. When you consider the butterfly to be a part of the system, not as an outside disturbance, the picture is consistent again.

ferd berple
January 9, 2012 8:28 pm

Lew Skannen says:
January 9, 2012 at 4:31 pm
“Chaotic behavior can be observed in many natural systems, such as the weather”
[5]Sneyers Raymond (1997). “Climate Chaotic Instability: Statistical Determination
Edit wikipedia to fix the problem. The reference is “cliamte” so it is inaccurate for someone to use “weather” in the sentence. It should read:
Chaotic behavior can be observed in many natural systems, such as climate.[5]

Editor
January 9, 2012 8:34 pm

Great discussion, though I think it important to note that the basic point–if a modest amount of warming could induce runaway warming feedback effects then it would have happened long ago–does not require all of this insight into the workings of chaotic systems with multiple attractors.
Of course that fuller picture has its own virtues. The image of a big fat cold-attractor lurking below, with no previously observed warm attractor above us, is a nice way of pointing out where the more likely danger lies.
Warming theorists would have us be complacent about this peril: “New paper: AGW may save us from the next ice age.” Even Dr. Brown suggests that:

We may ultimately discover that AGW was our salvation — the CO_2 released by our jump to civilization may ameliorate or postpone the next LIA, it may block cold-phase excursion that could begin the next REAL ice age for decades or even a century.

But that is only if CO2 actually has a significant warming effect. If 20th century warming was actually caused by the 80 year grand maximum of solar activity that began in the early 1920’s, that would leave little warming to attribute to CO2, and little chance that this slight warming effect will make the difference on whether our climate falls into the cold attractor.

January 9, 2012 8:34 pm

Hans says:
January 9, 2012 at 7:41 pm
Deterministic chaos, that’s interesting!

Paul Vaughan
January 9, 2012 8:39 pm

Paging Tomas Milanovic …

January 9, 2012 8:45 pm

DirkH says:
January 9, 2012 at 7:56 pm
The universal answer is, snow flakes are all different but snow is white, huh?> how can this be?
lol

James Sexton
January 9, 2012 8:51 pm

Paul Penrose says:
January 9, 2012 at 5:19 pm
I have been making this same basic argument for years, however yours was more articulate and detailed. Good luck getting traction with it; I kept getting “But you’re not a climate scientist” rebuttals. My answer was that one did not have to be a mathematician to know that 2 + 2 = 4. A condescending look and a dismissive remark is the usual response.
===========================================================
lol, yes, that’s right! But, as most of us know, there really isn’t such a thing as a climatologist. It is an invented occupation. It is akin to having a degree in ecological justice.
There is mathematics. There is physics. There is chemistry. Show me a science outside those realms and I’ll show you climatology.
Keep the faith. Truth is winning!

A C of Adelaide
January 9, 2012 9:01 pm

I’ve always thought that if we want to stabilise the climate we should get rid of all those pesky butterflies.
Thanks for this post – very good read.
I’m still unsure about what CO2 does to the climate one way or the other, but I am concerned with the relationship between the concentrations of atmospheric CO2 and the efficiency of photosynthesis. The coincidence of low CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere and Ice Ages puts the wind right up me. The biosphere appears to be sampling new lows in atmospheric CO2 concentrations each Ice Age and we appear to be entering a new regime never experienced before in Earth’s history. I wonder how it will turn out?

R. Gates
January 9, 2012 9:08 pm

This was an excellent post. I do want to take this little bit from the post and discuss is. It said:
“Is the response the order of the mean difference between attractors being predominantly sampled within the system already? If it is greater, then it is likely not just to move the current attractor but to kick the system over to a new attractor. And it may not be the attractor you expect, one on the warmer side of the previous one. More warming, as warmists state in more heuristic terms, can make the system oscillate more wildly and hence be both warmer at the warmest part of the oscillation and colder at the coldest part of the oscillation. If the new excursion of the oscillation is great enough, it can kick the system into oscillation around a new attractor altogether on either side of things.”
____
This is the point that leads to the validity of the study of the paleoclimate data from the mid-Pliocene. Looking at the data might give us a glimpse of a new attractor that additional CO2 might kick the system into oscillation around. This “kick” is of course the old sensitivity issue. How sensitive is the climate current system to not just the amount of CO2 that is being added (beyond anything seen in the system’s current oscillation in at least 800,000 years, and probably longer), but also the rate at which it is being added. The system, with both fast and slow feedbacks, will possibly respond quite differently to a slow kick than a fast kick, as the feedbacks will have different temporal responses. Thus, had it taken 2,000 years for the CO2 levels to go up from 280 to 390 ppm, could have a much different response or “kick” to the system then going up in a few hundred years. The speed of the “kick” could matter greatly. Studying the attractor that existed for the system in the most recent time in which CO2 levels were this high is a very valid approach, and certainly can offer insights which linear climate models do not afford.

Mike Wryley
January 9, 2012 9:14 pm

I do not understand how DNA studies can be used to indicate human population levels 72K years ago, but I suggest that doing some DNA research on the inhabitants of a Walmart parking lot on Sunday afternoon would show that we are already in the middle of another extinction event.

January 9, 2012 9:25 pm

but there is clearly a strong feedback within the climate cycle that enables cold phase “tipping”, probably related to albedo.
I’ve been thinking about possible mechanisms for the kind of sudden cooling we saw at the start of the Younger Dryas.
The likeliest mechanism IMO is a volcano around 45 degrees north early in the northern winter. A large ejection of troposphere and stratosphere aerosols, initially causes a large increase in clouds. Aerosol seeded clouds have a particularly high albedo, then followed by snowfall to much lower latitudes than normal again increasing albedo.
Note that any GHG warming would accentuate this effect by increasing the available water vapour in the atmosphere.
As northern winter progresses low atmospheric water vapour levels and hence clouds, and extended snow cover in mid-winter would continue the cooling by increasing outgoing LWR.
Would this cause a cooling tipping point? Probably not, but if we had multiple eruptions over several years as we did prior to ‘the year without a summer’, then maybe.

January 9, 2012 10:01 pm

Good, article until the mention of methane which is “greens” and IPCC (through green representatives) hyped up nonsense. There is no evidence to say that methane in the atmosphere has a measureable influence. The supposed 21*CO2 for methane in the atmosphere is not true. Depending how one considers water vapour it maybe correct when burnt in a car engine or a gas turbine (for electricty generation) but then it is actually worse than oil (diesel) or coal (for electricity generation).

January 9, 2012 10:08 pm

R. Gates says:
January 9, 2012 at 9:08 pm
In the next 70-100 years we’ll know that we wont know, we won’t be around to know.
Similar to the way that you don’t know that the past 100 years won’t change the future or the events from the last Ice age [thousands of years ago] from having far more influence over the next 100 years than what it has had over the past 100 years.
Oh, CO2, I hear it’s good for something. But I hear that it’s bad when billions of people constantly produce all of it. are there any facts surrounding this logistical bull s**t?

January 9, 2012 10:12 pm

Fascinating post.
Fred Hoyle wrote “ICE” in the early 1980s. His thesis was that ice ages and interglagials are triggered by large body impacts from space.
Part of the argument was that entry into, and exit from, ice age conditions are really quick – of the order of 100 years or less. I guess that this sort of rapidity is also what we should expect if the system is chaotic with several attractors.

anna v
January 9, 2012 10:25 pm

For information purposes: Luboš Motl in his blog is discussing a paper that corrects the input to Milankovitch’ cycle calculations.
Quote:
This paper by a former student of Richard Lindzen finally managed to fix Milutin Milankovič’s theory which hadn’t worked and the outcome was a theory that does work. The graph below contains both theoretical predictions as well as the observed data about the Northern Hemisphere temperature and you may see that the match is beautiful:

chuck nolan
January 9, 2012 10:35 pm

“The one that should be worrisome? Catastrophic Global Cooling. We know that there is a cold phase major attractor some 5-10C cooler than current temperatures. Human civilization arose in the Holocene, and we have not yet advanced to where it can survive a cold phase transition back to glacial conditions, not without the death of 5 billion people and probable near-collapse of civilization.”
OH NOES! It’s worse than we thought!

John Marshall
Reply to  chuck nolan
January 10, 2012 6:03 am

New ‘research’ has claimed that extra CO2 will hold off an ice age. About as believable as AGW.

Allan MacRae
January 9, 2012 10:41 pm

I agree with Dr Brown. I have previously expressed it as follows:
Earth has been much warmer in the past, and catastrophic runaway global warming has never happened.
So the feedbacks to warming in the climate system must be negative, not positive.
The fact that we are still here, having this conversation, is proof enough.
I have also previously stated that natural global cooling will soon recur. I wrote in 2003 that cooling would start by 2020 to 2030. This was based in part on NASA’s now-obsolete prediction that SC 24 would be strong but SC 25 would be weak. SC24 now appears to be weak, so cooling could happen sooner.
I have also stated many times that global cooling is a much greater threat to humanity and the environment than global warming. The threat to food production of even modest global cooling is significant. Do we even store significant reserves of grain anymore? Global cooling is what our foolish governments should be worried about – not small fractions of a degree of natural global warming.

chuck nolan
January 9, 2012 10:57 pm

anna v…it’s no go on the graph below.

January 9, 2012 11:01 pm

R. Gates,
You sir, have done more than anyone else to prove to me that AGW is a complete and total crock of excrement. For anyone who keeps tack of your unrelenting drivel, there is a clear pattern to it. Allow me to illustrate using your last bowl of steaming excrement tossed off as a pithy an relevant observation to demonstrate what it really is; FORMULA WRITING.
The formula begins (as always) with a compliment:
R. Gates;
This was an excellent post.>>>
The formula follows with the misdirection trick. Isolating an out of context paragraph from the article in order take the discussion in a direction never intended by the author. The comment seems sincere because it is proceeded by a compliment. Had the compliment not preceeded the blatant isolation of an out of context comment for the purposes of misdirection, the misdirection would be much more obvious as intentional, and the isolation of the comment excerpt out of context chosen carefully to support that objective:
R. Gates;
I do want to take this little bit from the post and discuss is. It said:>>>>
Having started with a compliment, and having used that compliment as cover for isolating an out of context excerpt for the purposes of misdirection, the misdirection can proceed apace:
R. Gates;
This is the point that leads to the validity of the study of the paleoclimate data from the mid-Pliocene.>>>>
The circular obfuscation is now in full flight. The compliment. The out of context quote. The misdirection, and then a conclusion that somehow, this supports the notion that (in this case) a completely out of context excertp supports the validity of a totaly and completely unrelated matter, which is the validity of the paleoclimat data. Having surreptitiously tied an out of context quote to an unrelated matter (validity of the paleoclimate data), R.Gates continues on building misdirection in layers of misdirection, each one of which relies on the misdirection before it:
R. Gates;
Looking at the data might give us a glimpse of a new attractor that additional CO2 might kick the system into oscillation around. >>>>
The premise almost seems logical except that the out of context quote that the logic process began with says nothing about the validity of the data in the first place, let alone how it might be exhibited even if the data was valid. Unperturbed that he has built a house of cards that stands on thin air, R. Gates continues:
R. Gates;
This “kick” is of course the old sensitivity issue.>>>
At this point, R. Gates is still relying on the original compliment to serve as cover that the logic chain presented is sincere. But the leap in logic is even greater this time. The article speaks not to sensitivity at all. In fact, the article is to a considerable extent a discussion of the variability that can exist within a chaotic system with stable inputs. The article speaks NOT to how much we might expect the earth to warm for a given increase in CO2 (which is what sensitivity is) but to the fact that it is quite possible for the earth to exist in wildly differing temperature distributions while still having the same “average” temperature. For example, large ice caps with a very hot tropics may have the same average temperature as an very small ice caps with a moderately warm tropics. There is no discussion of sensitivity at all, and in fact, the discussion is about factors that influence temperature distribution but have NO effect on average temperature! Having built a second house of cards that floats, unsupported, in thin air above the first house of cards, R. Gates continue the discussion and, anashamedly, draws a naked conclusion wrapped in the emperor’s magical new clothes:
R. Gates;
Studying the attractor that existed for the system in the most recent time in which CO2 levels were this high is a very valid approach, and certainly can offer insights which linear climate models do not afford.>>>
The formulaic comment now concludes with the same strategy with which it began. A conclusion that appears complimentary (and hence more sincere) refers to the original article as a “very valid approach” not, to compliment the original article however, but to confer the validity of the article upon the completely unrelated and unsupported conclusion drawn by R. Gates. This perception management trick attempts to fool the mind into connecting the endorsement by R. Gates of the article in such as manner as to make it seem that the article endorses the conclusion, when in fact the article and R. Gates entire logic train are completely unrelated.
I shall conclude on two notes:
1. The paleoclimate data has been thoroughly discredited by the leading paleoclimatologists themselves. Phil Jones and Michael Mann conspired to replace data that did not match the thermometer record (hence proving it was invalid) and got caught doing so. Keith Briffa attempted to slide in as factual a 1000 year temperature reconstruction from paleoclimate data that was 50% reliant on a single tree. The paleoclimate data rests upon the notion that a tree records annual temperature despite only growing for a few weeks per year. The paleoclimate data has zero validity, and all the pretention from R. Gates to the paleoclimate data somehow being valid because of an out of context excerpt from an article on a completely unrelated matter is nothing more than a huge, steaming, bowl of excrement that R. Gates would like to pass off as gourmet soup.
2. Readers should be aware that the techniques used by R. Gates in one comment after another are formulaic for a reason. They are, in fact, a formula. It has long been known in various studies of human psychology that there are known patterns by which information may be presented that are very persuasive despite the fact that the supporting data and logic used in the formulaic presentation are invalid, unrelated, and outright wrong. These techniques pervaid marketing and politics. We make fun of the practitioners of these techniques, calling them “snake oil salesmen” or writing humorous plays about them using such techniques to turn the mischief of a few boys into a driving need for a small town to buy wind instruments and start a band. Some practitioners of these techniques stumble upon them and learn them by rote, or are perhaps taught the techniques by an experienced practitioner. If you want to see a fine example, rent the movie “Paper Moon”, and don’t think for one second that trick with the change for a $20 they use over an over doesn’t actually work. The worst offenders in my mind are, however, those who study the psychology in detail and turn their knowledge to no good purpose. We call them shills, propogandists, “ad men”, and other terms…when we recognize them for what they are. They could not have careers doing what they do it they did not fool most of the people most of the time. For clarity, I don’t know that R. Gates isn’t, in fact, sincere. If he isn’t, then I further don’t know if the techniques evident in his writing are there because of colossal coincidence, natural ability, learned on the job, or the result of advanced degrees in marketing and/or psychology. But I have my suspicions. Richard G January 9, 2012 11:57 pm Dr Brown, great post. Thanks. One thought: You state “One final very important point — systems that oscillate almost always have negative feedback. In fact, that is the fundamental thing that defines an oscillatory system”. I would add “systems that oscillate *and persist through time* almost always have negative feedback. i.e. are dynamically stable. Those with positive feedback will end in catastrophe. I am put in mind of airplane flight dynamics. Early planes often were dynamically unstable (would not fly ‘hands off’) where oscillation would increase progressively (positive feed back) to catastrophic loss of control unless dampened by pilot input. A modern plane is designed to be dynamically stable. When trimmed it will maintain level flight by ‘hunting’ up and down around it’s equilibrium altitude by alternating negative feed backs of speed and lift without pilot input. A change in power setting results in a new equilibrium altitude. Our climate regime has displayed dynamic stability and has persisted across the geologic record with excursions up and down ‘hunting’ for equilibrium but historically staying within the window hospitable to life. The fossil record is clear. There have been bumps in the road but life is tenacious and opportunistic. In my opinion it is clear that the sun is the independent variable that drives the system. More CO2?…More sugar. John Marshall Reply to Richard G January 10, 2012 5:55 am Your thoughts on modern aircraft are in part wrong. The Eurofighter/Typhoon is dynamically unstable and cannot be flown only by the pilot. full computer control is required at all times with pilot input. This makes the Typhoon one of the world’s most agile aircraft. Hopefully passenger aircraft are dynamically stable. January 10, 2012 12:04 am Oh yes, this was the main point of my incessant arguments with my late father, A. I. Fet, who embraced the global warming guilt trip during the last decade of his life. He would assert that the “obviously exponential” increase of CO2 in atmosphere would “inevitably” result in the destabilization of the climate system, and that the point of no return is near (therefore, we must stop burning coal and oil, making cars, etc., etc. — the rest we all know). He would also insist on direct application of Boltzmann’s black-body equation to Earth, oceanic, atmospheric and biosphere’s feedbacks be damned. I would argue that it was strange that he, being a mathematician, wouldn’t take into account all those multiple states of stability and variance ranges possible in the system that depends on so many interacting factors, that we cannot talk about a simple linear or exponential relationship here. We frequently discussed, within this context, Lagrange attractors and Mandelbrot sets — oscillating diversity of orders evolving out of chaos over billions of years, which returns to one of the states within a wide range of states as surely as a tumbler toy, and which we, human beings, are simply unable to throw off its track (unless we blow all of our thermonuclear warheads simultaneously — and even in that case the consequences wouldn’t, probably, exceed the range of impacts already experienced by the Earth’s climate system in its past). I would name a plethora of natural disasters and impacts that exceeded anything that human beings ever did to the environment. I would also refer to Fred Hoyle and appeal to the common sense. In vain. In the end, my father would always resort to what I would call the “Leif Svalgaard argument“: “I am a scientist, you are not. I know what I am talking about, you don’t. So shut up already!” My father died an AGW believer, and even co-authored a Russian book on this subject, being prodded in this direction by toad-eaters and apple-polishers who surrounded him in his late years. Unsurprisingly, he never achieved anything in science since he gave himself up to the world of environmentalists, musicologists and other artsy-named mental prostitutes. RIP. John Marshall Reply to Alexander Feht January 10, 2012 6:01 am I am sorry that your father never became convinced that AGW was political rather than a fact. As a friend of mine always said, ‘a man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still’. We skeptics must keep up the argument. Frederick Davies January 10, 2012 12:27 am Man, this takes me back to my Classical Mechanics courses! Truly an interesting post. Chaos Theory could very well debunk CAGW if someone could show in a non-equivocal way that the equations climatologists use are indeed chaotic. The problem is that even if it were done, politicians would prefer the certainty of “more CO_2, more warming” to the more truthful but less certain “at some undetermined time in the future the climate system will switch to a cold phase due to causes we do not fully understand right now”. FD John Marshall Reply to Frederick Davies January 10, 2012 5:49 am The more CO2, more warming scenario is a model based theory and one encouraged by the IPCC to extend their mandate. It has no basis in fact. January 10, 2012 12:34 am P.S. When you ask yourself, what prompts an otherwise intelligent and educated person to embrace some primitive quasi-religion, such as an intolerant environmentalism and a belief in global warming (aka “climate change”), the answer (in the absence of a money carrot, which always comes handy), more often than not, lies in this person’s sexual life, in a betrayal in his or her relationship with closest friends and family. AGW belief is a typical “shift of blame” — a process well known among psychiatrists. A person strives to compensate for some betrayal, which he cannot consciously admit, by expiating some other, imaginary and popularly accepted kind of guilt, thus artificially compensating for his real guilt and arriving at some comfortable mental homeostasis. As any religious state of mind, it is a very precarious balance, replete with insoluble internal conflicts and constantly attacked by the incompatible reality, which results in further psychological and physiological problems (insomnia, depression, irritability, anxiety, metabolic and digestion problems, latent mental disorders, sometimes even cancer). However, if an admission of reality is impossibly painful, it is the only refuge. A life story of so many people you know, if you think about it. January 10, 2012 12:40 am Is it fair to say that the two systems would oscillate within the same parameters but the probability of them being synchronized is nil? As someone who dealt with oscillations on a many occasion, the answer is: Yes and No. If that doesn’t help here is a very real example: http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/CET-SW.htm Notice the common components at 22 years (solar magnetic -Hale cycle, btw not much if anything at 11 years) and around 70 years, but also the non-sync ones at 55 for summer and ~90 for winter. If Dr. Scafetta looks in, disappointingly there is nothing at 60 years. January 10, 2012 1:19 am For even more maths related to multiple attractors and limit cycles with jumps between them see this talk summary: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/sci/maths/research/events/2011-2012/tic/pavlyukevich_warwick-11.pdf Warning: lots of maths. wayne Job January 10, 2012 2:09 am Chaos maths is the only way to solve non linear equations, It took the advent of serious computing capacity to solve hundreds of derived equations that were proved and should have worked. The results proved the equations valid and explained the observed craziness in the real world of many engineering processes. The same non linear maths applies to our climate and all applications tend to beauty and simplicity, under lying the harmonic frequencies of our universe is chaos maths that give us the beauty. Thank you for this wonderful post, we certainly have a lot to learn. John Marshall January 10, 2012 2:15 am Why would our production of CO2 change all attractors when natural production of the same gas is so much larger, the ratio being 3:97 in favour of the natural producers. Natural CO2 production has varied by very large amounts over geological time and varies diurnally, seasonally, annually and hemispherically. Also why are all natural feedbacks negative except in climatology where all these feedbacks are positive and produce big problems, according to the models. Gilbert K. Arnold January 10, 2012 2:19 am @ Phillip Bradley: “The likeliest mechanism IMO is a volcano around 45 degrees north early in the northern winter” It seems to me a multi-year “super-volcano” eruption at Yellowstone might just fit your hypothesis. That’s a really scary thought. Not only would you have the destruction from the volcano itself but the knock-on effect of tipping us into an ice-age. A. Scott January 10, 2012 3:05 am An excellent post by Dr. Brown – while much was pretty technical and would cause the average persons eyes to glaze over there were also some great simple points almost anyone could understand. I liked the description that basically our climate has two main “states” – the warm inter-glacial and cold glacial states. The climate oscillates between the two, but the cold glacial state is by all appearance the strong or steady state, due to its predominance in the climate record. I think this is to an extent confirmed by the longer times spent IN a glacial period and by the fact that excursions into warm inter-glacial’s are pretty much marked by steep climbs and similarly steep falls in temps. They all seem to indicate the climate in general “wants” to be cold – that there is a cold bias inherent in the system. I also thought the imagery was very good, that what the warming proponents advocate is a third NEW climate “state” – one much warmer than the long historical record has ever shown. A simple “balance of probability” test which has three possibilities – cold, warm and warmer climate “states,” with cold historically dominant, warm occurring a smaller proportion of the time, and warmer having not occurred in the known climate record – would seem to well illustrate the whole AGW issue, even for lay people. We can show, with decent evidence, we are at or near a normal inter-glacial peak. The record shows in repeated cases, at pretty clear intervals, what transpires next is a sharp drop towards and in to the predominant glacial state. The temperature record also shows we have seen an uncharacteristic “leveling” of temps over the last 12,000 years of so – that temps have seemingly entered an unusual “steady” state for that time frame. Instead of climbing and peaking as CO2 rose, then reaching a sharp pick and quick descent, as has occurred in prior peaks – temps have remained stable within a steady range of variability. Warming proponents want us to believe not only is the recent anthropogenic contribution enough to overcome the historical record but so large as to as Dr. Brown notes also go so far as the create a third warmer state not seen before. IF the temp stability of the last 12,000 years or so had occurred in the last 400 year or so – there might be some at least anecdotal support that AGW was related, however we weren’t creating much of an increase in GHG’s 12,000 years ago. Despite CO2 continuing to climb we have seen no warming the last decade. Since that is the main data point supporting the entire AGW proposition – the “warmer” state possibility – the failure of temps to react as they predict in a rising CO2 world further undermines the probability or possibility of the “warmer” state being the likely outcome. If we take the 12,000 year trend of slight cooling, add the appx 100,000-125,000 year glacial/inter-glacial “cycle” (which we are chronologically past I believe) and then weigh against the three possibilities – it sure seems to favor breaking out the muk-luks and long undies. Dr. Browns detailed and technical commentary include the simple gem that helps explain the whole AGW situation in terms almost all can understand. Seems it would be good to refine that explanation into a simple, easily understood message, that could be the cornerstone of informing the public on the issue? A. Scott January 10, 2012 3:11 am On the scientific and research side it would seem we should be focusing all our efforts on what happened 12,000 years ago – not the myopic fixation on AGW. Our climate entering into a steady state of stable temps back then, at a point below the inter-glacial peak tipping point threshold, is to me the important answer we should be looking for. Whatever triggered that halt of normally increasing inter-glacial temps and caused us to enter the current 12,000 year steady state climate period DOES seemingly have the possibility and probability of helping escape the impending glacial or prolong at least the inter-glacial. John Marshall Reply to A. Scott January 10, 2012 5:41 am Probably the reason is that climate follows cycles. There are no positive feedbacks, if there were there would have been a tipping point millions of years ago. Feedbacks must be negative for cycles to happen otherwise we would have had the snowball earth from 850Ma ago still with us. It is the PC idea that feedbacks are positive in climate. markus January 10, 2012 3:42 am “Two trajectories that are started close to one another will usually start out, for a while, orbiting the attractors the same general way. But over time — often a remarkably short time — the two trajectories will diverge. One will flip over to the other attractor and the other won’t.” Just like Muller & Curry. Bloke down the pub January 10, 2012 3:48 am Dr Robert Brown- A star is born. My main concern with all this is that historically sudden changes to cooler climate have led to the collapse of empires and social order. With the proliferation of nuclear weapons, the next time it happens, things can get very messy very quickly. wayne January 10, 2012 5:29 am Dr. Brown, I can’t express enough our appreciation for spending the sizable time to explain such a deep area as chaotic systems, attractors and how that relates to climate, and in a comprehensible form. Very clear, you are one good communicator. Thanks mucho. Now, must read a couple of more times! January 10, 2012 5:51 am earth warms and melts Arctic Sea Ice. It snows like crazy and earth cools. Arctic freezes, Snow Decreases. Ice melts and retreats and earth warms. This stable cycle repeats. January 10, 2012 5:56 am A. Scott your posting indicates that you might be ready for Pope’s Climate Theory http://popesclimatetheory.com/ I do explain why the past ten thousand years have been stable in a more narrow range R. Gates January 10, 2012 6:34 am davidmhoffer, “The paleoclimate data rests upon the notion that a tree records annual temperature despite only growing for a few weeks per year.” ———- This single statement pretty much summarizes the rest of your shallow and uninformed comments. To lump the entire field of paleoclimate study under the category of “tree records”, especially when I was referring to the mid-Pliocene, indicates a level of ignorance only perhaps exceeded by your fixated vitriol. Really, get over yourself Mr. Hoffer. wsbriggs January 10, 2012 7:08 am Great read! Thank you Dr. Brown for bringing additional real science into the discussion. One of the things about the Fluctuation-Dissipation Theorm is that it describes the connection between microscopic fluctuations and macroscopic relaxation. This connection is important. Relaxation describes perturbed systems’ behavior following the perturbation. It also gives the possible mechanism for a transition from one set of attractors to another. It is bounded by the set of parameters controlling the fluctuation. In some cases knowledge of the parameters within the set is impossible. This would appear to describe our complex atmospheric/marine/solar/cosmic ray interactive system. Simplifying assumptions can lead one on very false trails when modeling. Observation, on the other hand, does give us some knowledge of previously reached attractors, but not necessarily of the full state space. Personally, I’d like to get back to observing the Climate, and enjoying the Weather without the necessity of listening to the herd in full stampede mode, screaming, “The sky is falling, the sky is falling.” Just my$0.02.

John G
January 10, 2012 7:18 am

So the question for the current crop of climate scientists is “why are you fixated on a speculative never observed warm attractor above while ignoring the well known, documented and deadly cold attractor below?” Really, you don’t have to be knowledgeable about chaos theory to have observed the sequence of glaciations and interglacials earth has been in or attracted to over the last few million years and to note that, as interglacials go, the current one is about spent. The cold attractor beckons.

More Soylent Green!
January 10, 2012 7:51 am

Expanding upon the premise that the climate is a chaotic system, I wish to add that in chaos theory, a small change in initial conditions can lead to very different outcomes. Also, chaotic does not mean random, but describes something that is non-linear.

Chuck
January 10, 2012 8:26 am

This is one of the more fascinating posts I’ve read on WUWT…. and one of the scariest should we switch to a cold climate phase. Fortunately it’s unlikely I’ll be around for that. A global crash in population would be really ugly.
Although I’m less than convinced that the tiny influence of increased CO2 will stave off the next ice age, it is certainly interesting to consider that it is at least possible that higher CO2 levels could be the straw removed from the camel’s back that keeps us from switching to next cool phase.

LarryD
January 10, 2012 8:28 am

A more erudite statement of the reasons I’ve long doubted AGW. Atmospheric CO2 reconstructions show CO2 has often been way above the “tipping point”, Hansen claims, and the temperature reconstructions show two strongly meta-stable states (non-glacial and glacial), with a weaker meta-stable inter-glacial state.

Rob Crawford
January 10, 2012 8:47 am

Part of the problem skeptics face is that the CAGW crowd tends to dismiss the historical record as irrelevant. I’ve had people, confronted with the facts that warmer periods are better for humanity, and that the degree of warming they’re predicting has never happened, shoot back with, “but this time, it’s different. I just know it”.

Brian H
January 10, 2012 8:50 am

Mike Wryley says:
January 9, 2012 at 9:14 pm
I do not understand how DNA studies can be used to indicate human population levels 72K years ago

They use mitochondrial DNA (mDNA) as mitochondria are passed on “unchanged” from mother to children. Then they look at how many variations have piled up between people around the world, at the (more ore less) known mutation rate. Backing out the changes at that rate till the most similar lineages converge gives the timeline. Then, you have left a certain number of ‘separate lineages’ which gives an estimate of the number of mothers at that time. From that, you can guesstimate the total population.
The accuracy is limited; note the roughness and approximation of the population numbers. But it’s in the ballpark.

Brian H
January 10, 2012 9:08 am

A. Scott says:
January 10, 2012 at 3:05 am
An excellent post by Dr. Brown – while much was pretty technical and would cause the average persons eyes to glaze over there were also some great simple points almost anyone could understand.
I liked the description that basically our climate has two main “states” – the warm inter-glacial and cold glacial states. The climate oscillates between the two, but the cold glacial state is by all appearance the strong or steady state, due to its predominance in the climate record.

Actually, that’s the last few million years. Start measuring in the 10s and 100s of millions, though, and the “Hot House” with average temps around 24°C predominate. With CO2 levels in the 000s and probably surface pressures at several bar, maybe more.
There seem to be multiple layers of attractors, IOW.

Brian H
January 10, 2012 9:10 am

P.S. The difference may be the covering of the South Pole by Antarctica. It broke up the nice warm tropical globe attractor.

Brian H
January 10, 2012 9:20 am

John Marshall says:
January 10, 2012 at 5:41 am
Probably the reason is that climate follows cycles. There are no positive feedbacks, if there were there would have been a tipping point millions of years ago. Feedbacks must be negative for cycles to happen otherwise we would have had the snowball earth from 850Ma ago still with us. It is the PC idea that feedbacks are positive in climate.

That’s probably a decent general statement, a principle. Any positive feedbacks are ultimately self-extinguishing, and subsumed in some larger negative feedback regime, “brought to heel”. Various adjustments occur to reduce the likelihood of such positive run-ups, and finally they are reduced to signals or initiators of negative loop-backs. Only very large perturbations can then cause tipping-point breakouts from the local attractor cluster.

Brian H
January 10, 2012 9:24 am

dmh;
A good diagnosis of why that (and other) posts taste slippery-slimy. Disingenuous is the polite term.

Justin K
January 10, 2012 9:45 am

R. Gates says:
January 10, 2012 at 6:34 am
growing for a few weeks per year.”
This single statement pretty much summarizes the rest of your shallow and uninformed comments. To lump the entire field of paleoclimate study under the category of “tree records”, especially when I was referring to the mid-Pliocene, indicates a level of ignorance only perhaps exceeded by your fixated vitriol.
———————
Except that davidmhoffer didn’t “lump the entire field of paleoclimate study under the category of ‘tree records'”. He talked about the data specifically. You should know this as the first sentence of the section you quoted said,
“The paleoclimate data has been thoroughly discredited by the leading paleoclimatologists themselves.”
So, the question is are you being intentionally disingenuous or are you unknowingly obtuse. The latter is kind of redundant, but you seem to have no problem with redundancy.

DonS
January 10, 2012 10:08 am

@ Brian H: Wryley doesn’t give a rats about DNA. He/she is just taking a shot at the Wal-Mart clientele. Possibly the sophomoric context of the remark failed to alert you to its intention.
By the way, did you know you can ascertain the state of the economy by the ratio of Bimmers to Junkers in a Wal-Mart parking lot?

Tenuc
January 10, 2012 10:19 am

Paul Vaughan says:
January 9, 2012 at 8:39 pm
Paging Tomas Milanovic … Here hear!!!
For those wishing to know more about the science behind Dr. Browns excellent post, try to get your hands on a book by James Gleick – CHAOS, making of a new science, which is a good beginners guide, without too much maths.
Some good stuff from Thomas Milanovic here if you want to understand the depth of the problems that are encountered by those trying to understand complex dynamic non-linear systems, like weather/climate…
http://judithcurry.com/2011/02/10/spatio-temporal-chaos/
http://judithcurry.com/2011/03/05/chaos-ergodicity-and-attractors/
Some good comments on both threads also well worth reading.

Richard G
January 10, 2012 10:28 am

John Marshall says:
January 10, 2012 at 5:55 am >>>>>>>>>>
The exception that proves the rule. The F-16 is also dynamically unstable and flyable only because the computer dampens the positive feed back. Extreme performance is achieved by the computer ‘allowing’ critical instability in the desired direction.
All general aviation aircraft are required by FAA regulation to be dynamically stable to obtain certification.

phlogiston
January 10, 2012 10:45 am

Reading this article is like consuming a German-sized tankard of cold Bavarian beer after a walk across the Sahara desert – in terms of thirst for scientific insight into what is really behind historically observed (and soon-to-be-observed) climate shifts and the complex and dynamic climate system itself.
Thank-you Dr Brown for this truly refreshing reality check.
The understanding of the climate an a nonlinear / nonequilibrium system with emergent pattern and attractors, is as fundamental an advance in climate science as the insight by Galileo and Copernicus of the earth and other planets as orbiting the sun, rather than the earth-centric epicycle paradigm. CO2-centered (anthropogenic) climate science is directly analagous to the earth-centered epicycle cosmology. This is a sneak preview of a scientific revolution that is still decades away from taking hold in the scientific and public mainstream. Enjoy!
BTW a paired butterfly-wing attractor is not necessarily a Lorenz, it could also be a torn Roessler attractor.
One final very important point — systems that oscillate almost always have negative feedback. In fact, that is the fundamental thing that defines an oscillatory system — it has attractors in it. Attractors are themselves stable (equilibrium) points such that if the system is perturbed from them it is pulled back towards equilibrium, not pushed away from it.
Negative feedback, otherwise referred to as friction, dissipation or damping, is indeed a key ingredient of non-equilibrium pattern systems. One very nice experimental demonstration of this is the oxidation of CO catalysed on a platinum substrate, described by Matthas Bertram and others, in which nonequilibrium complex patterns are established on the Pt surface, but the introduction of positive feedback into the system (by adjustment of gas pressures) opposes the complex patterns and imposes a monotonic regular oscillation. Thus negative feedback (damping) promotes emergent pattern – characterised by attractors – while positive feedback kills off such pattern and imposes regular oscillation.
Thus I see the climatic record with its apparent mix of suggestive regular oscillations with randomnness and variable oscillations as the effects of competing negative and positive feedbacks on a nonlinear-chaotic oscillatory system, with periodic forcing from Milankovich cycles in the long term and other possibly solar cycles in the shorter term.
Another way of describing a system with multiple attractors is as a limit cycle. While a complex multidimensional system is potentially free to adopt an infinite number of states, instead it is attracted to a limited number of states, the limit cycle. In this regard it is very interesting to note Bob Tisdale’s recent demonstration that the sea surface temperatures of the world’s oceans excluding the East Pacific (where the ENSO cycle occurs) only rise (or fall) at ENSO events, and SSTs remain static in between such events.
http://bobtisdale.wordpress.com/2011/12/27/on-the-ipccs-undue-confidence-in-coupled-ocean-atmosphere-climate-models-a-summary-of-recent-posts/
The ENSO has been shown by Bob to be apparently the principle driver of global climatic trends, with the recent temperature rise of the last few decades being in fact 2 or 3 step rises in global SST occuring at La Nina events. Could such periods of apparent stasis represent mini-attractors, and the system as a whole resemble a limit cycle?
Another related observation that was posted last January was the apparent resemblance of the ENSO pattern of oscillating East Pacific SSTs with a spatially distributed Belousov-Zhabotinsky reactor – the classic model of a nonlinear oscillator from inorganic chemistry:
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/01/25/is-the-enso-a-nonlinear-oscillator-of-the-belousov-zhabotinsky-reaction-type/

January 10, 2012 11:17 am

A very interesting article. My only comment is that there is in fact no warming effect from carbon dioxide because it has been proved by Professors Claes Johnson (1) and Nasif Nahle (2) that backradiation cannot warm the surface.
I frankly doubt the proof. First of all, backradiation does not “warm the surface”, sure, but it damn sure can slow its daytime cooling and increase the retention of heat. Go out and buy a “space blanket” — one of those ultrathin reflective pieces of plastic — and wrap your hand in it. Second, the physical mechanism is well understood, makes sense, and is consistent with laboratory experiments.
If you want more proof, note the correlation between nighttime temperature and clouds. I mean this one is simple — you can do it yourself almost any winter night that start out cloudy but is due to clear or vice versa. The temperature is extremely uniform as long as there are clouds overhead backscattering heat and hence slowing radiative cooling, but as soon as the clouds depart it cools, even if there is almost no wind (so it isn’t just that the air coming in is cooler). Finally, note the diurnal temperature differential for hot deserts as a function of local humidity. When it is dry, it is as large as 45C. When the air is relatively humid, it is much smaller.
I will state up front that I personally think it is borderline silly to assert that there is no greenhouse effect. This isn’t even new physics, it is “ancient” physics, and nothing learned in radiation physics that I know of has contradicted the basic theory, although sure there are still arguments over the details and sizes and feedbacks and so on. It is easy to understand, based on physics one can easily measure, and almost certainly a significant factor that contributes to the overall climate of the Earth. All of the serious discussion isn’t “is there a greenhouse effect at all” but about the details, in particular how greenhouse trapping of heat due to CO_2 in general and anthropogenic CO_2 in particular creates a mean rate differential between heating (from a hot source with spectral peak in the visible part of the spectrum, where the atmosphere is transparent) to cooling (from a cold source, radiating with a spectral peak in the IR, where the atmosphere is not particularly transparent). The latter doesn’t “warm” anything — it just cools more slowly than the same warm surface would in a vacuum because the emitted radiation bounces around a lot longer before making it it out at the top of the atmosphere.
The major argument involves the feedbacks and the details of the dynamics. If there is no feedback at all, a doubling of atmospheric CO_2 would lead to a probable increase in mean temperature of the Earth of roughly 1C, not really a problem. If there is net-negative feedback (which I offer a possibly “new” argument for above, although in the world it probably isn’t unique) it will probably be less than 1C. If there is net-positive feedback, it will probably be greater.
The long-term climate record (e.g. the Vostok ice core temperature estimates from the last 500K years) shows no signs of a second, locally stable (still) warmer phase in the general thermal bistability evident. It is usually either cold (glacial stable), warm (interglacial stable), or unstable and fluctuating briefly up (or down) a la Younger Dryas. The warm phase temperature and range of fluctuation is remarkably consistent across interglacials, as is the cold phase temperature, although you can see longer term variation in a longer term paleoclimate proxy record (to the extent that you can trust it).
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of fluctuation-dissipation in analyzing the likelihood of “catastrophe”, BTW. Although it is an open system, and we’re talking about a first order transition between major stable phases, the onset of catastrophe is marked by certain changes. In particular, the lifetime of fluctuations increases. Fluctuations are the key to understanding feedback, as negative feedback is responsible for damping fluctuations. Roy Spencer, in his book, does a beautiful if still somewhat incomplete job of arguing for negative feedback by looking directly at temperature fluctuations. As a system approaches a critical point, where it is likely to make a transition to a different state, one expects fluctuations to become more violent and to last longer. The susceptibility of the system should increase, classically to a divergence at a critical temperature but at the very least towards a strong nonlinear peak. Major changes should occur in things like patterns of circulation as the system flips around more rapidly.
There is basically no evidence that any such thing is occurring in the recent climate record, certainly nothing that cannot easily be interpreted as being well within the range of normal climate fluctuations empirically observed across the Holocene. There has clearly been warming since the LIA. It is reasonable to conclude that some of that warming has been due to anthropogenic changes including CO_2, land use changes, irrigation, blowing black soot around, air pollution, and so on. It’s really OK even for a skeptic to include CO_2 in the list, also — it is silly not to as noted above.
It is, however, almost impossible to determine how much of the warming is due to CO_2 compared to everything else. It could be as little as 0.3C. The problem is that the late 20th century, when the greatest “warming” occurred, was an 11,000 year Grand Solar Maximum, an oft-ignored fact that confounds efforts to “pin” the warming all on CO_2. The assumption “all things being equal” is simply not true for the 20th century — it wasn’t a normal century as far as the Sun was concerned, any more than the 17th century Grand Minimum was. Is it a coincidence that one was the LIA and the other was roughly as warm as the MWP? Perhaps, but one is certainly justified in doubting it! We also have enormous problems with the proxy-extrapolated climate record, variability in actual thermometer-based records, non-uniformity in measurement sites, sparsity of records — even in the scientific era we have lousy, noisy, sparse, data with big error bars that oversamples the hell out of the Northern Hemisphere and urban sites and leaves whole chunks of the world more or less unmeasured, where even where it was measured it was measured with relatively poor and inaccurate instruments. It is IMO impossible to correct this data for systematic bias without introducing systematic bias — the best that can be said is that it is noisy and unreliable and leave it at that.
In fifty or sixty more years, we’ll have a long enough satellite baseline — and I’m sure much improved physics and models — that perhaps we can start to separate out signal, noise, and the effect of all sorts of nonlinear responses in the chaotic climate system. Perhaps we will have a better handle on the sun as well, or we may even discover new physics that is contributing. In the meantime, anthropogenic CO_2 might drive the average temperature a whole degree warmer over the next century — an event that may well be lost in the “noise” of natural variability of the dynamical system itself in response to other drivers and dynamical history — but since non-carbon energy sources are destined to become economically favorable compared to carbon-based ones long before that, there are any number of “catastrophes” we should be worrying about instead.
Like limiting the world’s population of 7 billion and counting. Like decreasing the range between the haves and the have-nots, lifting up the world to civilization. Like working to eliminate religious oligarchy and promote freedom around the world. Like working to understand the world and our universe, because our knowledge gives us power over our environment and control over our own destiny while ignorance never can or will. Like creating great art. Like making the world a place of relative safety. Like being good stewards of our environment, something that sadly, no tragically, has been actually reduced as a distraction with all of the attention concentrated on CO_2.
Like working for World Peace…
Screw CAGW. There is no good reason to expect catastrophe. There is little reason to think that CO_2 won’t start to abate before it doubles anyway before the end of the century. But even if it were dead on true, it might be the lesser of evils compared to carbon taxes and all of the power (political power, not the other kind) games it fuels, all of the distraction from the really serious issues it represents.
Just imagine a world where we had spent billions of dollars not controlling carbon over the last decade, but on building schools, on eliminating pollution, on improving communications, on democracy building, on ending conflicts. Now the billions threaten to swell to tens, to hundreds of billions. We could eliminate global poverty for half of that., with World Peace right around the corner.
rgb

January 10, 2012 11:33 am

What it takes to “flip” the system back to the other attractor, I believe, is a solar grand minimum where we have finally get a summer with nearly a full Arctic ice pack and not enough insolation when we come out of that grand minimum to melt it again in the face of the now-increased albedo.
I agree, crosspatch. Although there are probably other factors as well. Recall that the YD is supposedly due to the deflection of the oceanic conveyor belt so that the Gulf Stream circulated well south of where it goes now, supposedly caused by a lake of freshwater that diluted the Arctic “suddenly” as a major ice dam melted and drained, well, “Canada”. Even a relatively small change in the salinity of the system is subject to nonlinear/catastrophic sudden variations that could flip a little switch and make another small change that makes another small change, and suddenly you have a fresher arctic (easier to freeze) blocking the warm current that might melt it, and as you say, a feedback loop towards the cold cycle again.
There was a post last week about how parts of the arctic are “suddenly” freshening, due to increased freshwater runoff from streams and rivers out of Russia. This brings up fascinating possibilities — lower solar activity causes higher GCR rates which increases cloud formation which increases albedo near the equator (cooling) and increases rainfall in Siberia — if the various oscillations are phased just right at the time — which freshens the arctic which increases sea ice and blocks the Gulf Stream, which drops the temperature in Europe and the Northeast US and Canada (and Greenland and Iceland) “suddenly” by 2-3C which really increases sea ice and starts glaciation — more precip, colder temperatures, less heat in the tropics… etc.
The point is that the climate system, because it is chaotic, can become extremely sensitive to small systematic changes in things like circulation patterns or cloud formation (less so to uniform changes in temperature). The same forces that are causing it to stay in the current cycles carry it close to the boundaries of other attractors in the multistable space, and some variables may be important control variables that push the system closer to those boundaries. It’s the magnitude of the oscillations that is worrisome, not the mean behavior, and to understand them one needs data, more and better than we currently have.
rgb

January 10, 2012 11:35 am

“I kept getting “But you’re not a climate scientist” rebuttals.”
Yeah, funny how that argument comes out or not depending on which side of the issue you argue.

Me, I’m just a “denier”.
rgb

R. Gates
January 10, 2012 11:44 am

Except that davidmhoffer didn’t “lump the entire field of paleoclimate study under the category of ‘tree records’”. He talked about the data specifically. You should know this as the first sentence of the section you quoted said,
“The paleoclimate data has been thoroughly discredited by the leading paleoclimatologists themselves.”
______
My point exactly, as if the “paleoclimate data” was a homogenous thing, that with a single wave of the hand, could be dismissed by the “leading paleoclimatologists”–even if Mr. Hoffer were not simply engaging in weak-minded hyperbole. The study of paleoclimate data is a broad and complex field with many sub-specialties, both in content and historic period of interest, such that no “leading paleoclimatologist” in any one specialty would ever have sufficient knowledge or understanding to credibly dismiss all paleoclimate data–even if they were so inclined, which of course, in reality, they are not. Rather, Mr. Hoffer is once more grasping at straws in his never ending vitriol-powered fantasies. It would be humorous, and is humorous on one level, but certainly quite pathetic on another.

kwik
January 10, 2012 11:47 am

“We know that there is a cold phase major attractor some 5-10C cooler than current temperatures.”
Yes, we do;
http://motls.blogspot.com/2010/07/in-defense-of-milankovitch-by-gerard.html

January 10, 2012 11:54 am

Thank you Dr Brown for a very lucid discussion of why things are improbable because they haven’t happened yet! That might seem a bit trite to some, but I work in a field of risk analysis where I have to address this issue a lot of the time. We can calculate probabilistic risks only when the hazard has actually occurred; we can examine hypothetical risks based on known mechanisms to create some hazard and address the individual parts of the mechanism for their probabilities (hoping to provide some level of probability); but speculative risks with no known mechanism to cause any hazard are completely beyond the bounds of analysis.
Otherwise known as using Bayes’ Theorem to analyze joint and conditional probabilities. Yes, the proper analysis of climate would be a Bayesian analysis. Sadly, I doubt that most climate researchers have a clue about Bayes theorem. Mann certainly doesn’t.
The assumption that things are unlikely because they haven’t happened yet is predicated on “ergodicity”, the idea that in our abstract state space the natural excursion of the variables has already carried the system into all “accessible” regions and sampled them a fair bit, so that if catastrophe lurks, it must be in the relatively small unsampled part of the volume. Plus a bunch of e.g. smoothness assumptions and the like.
This can always be countered in climate science by the “scenario” method favored by warmists. In the “methane catastrophe” scenario, warming passes a critical point and the ocean bottom degasses massive amounts of methane, turning Earth into a sweatbox “overnight”. In my recently posted “freshwater catastrophe” (not due to me, I’ve read about this elsewhere) a freshening arctic blocks oceanic heat convection and puts Europe and the Arctic into an icebox, also “overnight”. What are the odds of either one? Empirically, slender indeed. People don’t appreciate it, but the Earth spent close to a thousand years of the Holocene with warmer average temperatures than we have right now (Holocene Optimum), doubtless with the temperature within that period fluctuating up and down to much hotter for a year or two and much cooler for a year or two in response to e.g. ENSO (or possibly, completely different global circulation patterns that dominated that epoch). If “methane catastrophe” or polar bear extinction were particularly likely, they probably would have happened then. Similarly, the LIA did not turn into the next real ice age. The Earth’s climate is in fact proven empirically (probably) stable for at least one more additional degree absolute and at least down to 2-3 almost completely missing solar cycles.
But do we hear this sort of analysis in climate research? On the contrary — we have MBH and the hockey stick “denying” that there is any significant climate variability at all that nasty old humans didn’t create, starting in the mid-nineteenth century.
The key to CAGW all along has been the elimination of the natural climate variability from the climate record. With it there, Bayes (also known as “using common sense”, by the way, quite literally) instantly rejects probable catastrophe. With it gone, then the last 150 years are extraordinary, unheard of, remarkable, and can have only one cause, anthropogenic CO_2, because otherwise the Earth’s climate is stable.
Horse. Shit.
rgb

January 10, 2012 11:59 am

R. Gates;
This single statement pretty much summarizes the rest of your shallow and uninformed comments. To lump the entire field of paleoclimate study under the category of “tree records”, especially when I was referring to the mid-Pliocene, indicates a level of ignorance only perhaps exceeded by your fixated vitriol. >>>>
It would perhaps be helpful then for you to stipulate as to which paleoclimate data you consider credible. A simple handwave and an “oh, I wasn’t talking about tree rings” is sadly deficient in establishing that there exists any paleoclimate data that has any credibility. Please advise.
R. Gates;
Really, get over yourself Mr. Hoffer.>>>
I see I have touched a nerve.
Given the extent of our relationship that we have established over time in this forum, I’d suggest that there is no reason for honorifics. You may call me David or Dave, I’m good with both and quite happy to be on a first name basis with you. What’s your first name? Your REAL first name?
For those wishing to be better informed as to the methods by which whateverhisrealfirstnameis Gates is using to hijack threads, misdirect and obfuscate, may I draw your attention to the highly controversial (and in my opinion, dangerous) field of pscyhology known as NLP or Neuro Linguistic Programming. While I can’t say for certain that whateverhisrealfirstnameis Gates is using NLP at all, and if he is, which specific branch of NLP he subscribes to, I’d suggest beginning the the book “Sleight of Mouth” by Robert Dilts.
The description of “Sleight of Mouth” is summarized in many ways as it has many practitioners. I consider it dangerous because in the hands of a trained and ruthless individual, you can convince otherwise intelligent people that the earth is flat and they should give you money for having explained it to them. For a pretty good summary of the major strategies which seem very evident (to me at least) in R. Gates writing, I suggest:
http://www.renewal.ca/nlp21.htm
and scroll down to the section titled “Sleight of Mouth Patterns” to see what I mean.
dmh

January 10, 2012 12:06 pm

But that is only if CO2 actually has a significant warming effect. If 20th century warming was actually caused by the 80 year grand maximum of solar activity that began in the early 1920′s, that would leave little warming to attribute to CO2, and little chance that this slight warming effect will make the difference on whether our climate falls into the cold attractor.
Damn skippy. Not just an 80-year long Grand Maximum (I like to capitalize it to emphasize the point:-) but the strongest one in 11,000 years! You have to go back to the beginning of the Holocene to find a time when the Sun was as active as it was in the 20th century for an extended period of time. Again, I don’t know how to embed figures, but if the moderators would stick figure 17 from section 4 of:
http://solarphysics.livingreviews.org/Articles/lrsp-2008-3/
this paper in here, it would be greatly appreciated (and emphasize the point). BTW, the first red bump is associated with the end of the previous ice age (and almost immediate beginning of the Younger Dryas catastrophe; the second red bump is around the time of the end of the Younger Dryas, and the red patch in the middle has, AFAIK, nothing special about it, it wasn’t synchronous with the Holocene Optimum when global temperatures were between 1 and 2 C warmer than they are right now!
What, the baby seals and polar bears didn’t die over the thousands of years in the Holocene when it was warmer than the present? How is that even possible? I’m such a bad, bad denier…
rgb

Justin K
January 10, 2012 12:14 pm

Robert Brown says:
January 10, 2012 at 11:17 am
“I frankly doubt the proof. First of all, backradiation does not “warm the surface”, sure, but it damn sure can slow its daytime cooling and increase the retention of heat. Go out and buy a “space blanket” — one of those ultrathin reflective pieces of plastic — and wrap your hand in it. Second, the physical mechanism is well understood, makes sense, and is consistent with laboratory experiments…
…Just imagine a world where we had spent billions of dollars not controlling carbon over the last decade, but on building schools, on eliminating pollution, on improving communications, on democracy building, on ending conflicts. Now the billions threaten to swell to tens, to hundreds of billions. We could eliminate global poverty for half of that., with World Peace right around the corner.”
————————————-
Another fantastic post!!! Bravo!!!!!

January 10, 2012 12:17 pm

We can show, with decent evidence, we are at or near a normal inter-glacial peak. The record shows in repeated cases, at pretty clear intervals, what transpires next is a sharp drop towards and in to the predominant glacial state
We’re actually well down from the current (Holocene) interglacial peak, where global temperatures were some 1-2C warmer than they are today. The world has been cooling at an accelerating rate for the last 2000 years, where the stretch from 1000-2000 CE was one of the coldest thousand year stretches of the last 11,000, including the 20th century warming. If we warm as much as 1.5 C more, we will only be reaching (once again) the climate wherein men invented civilization, say the global climate when the Greek and Indian and early Chinese civilizations were all flourishing some 2500 years ago. Historically, warm is good, cold is bad, for humans at least.
Alas, I don’t think one can assume that CO_2 forcing is sufficient to propel us to a new interglacial optimum. There’s that pesky grand maximum in solar activity in the 20th century confounding things, together with what appears to be at least a temperature stabilization now that the maximum is over. The interesting question is, will the temperature significantly decrease like it did from 1945-1965 over the next cycle or two? That would effectively categorically disprove the CAGW hypothesis, positively confirm negative feedback, prove that the state of the sun does have a major effect on climate outside of mere variation of power output. Similarly, if it pauses and then continues rising, it will suggest that the feedback may be net positive. From the slope we will eventually be able to put limits on the feedback that positively exclude both catastrophe and anything to even slightly worry about — I don’t think we’re there on the latter, although I think we are on the former (catastrophe is most unlikely).
rgb

Viv Evans
January 10, 2012 12:18 pm

Great post!
This, and your two replies above (@ 11.17 and 11.33 am), as well as your previous ones show that you are a great communicator of subjects not easily grasped by those who haven’t studied physics at graduate level.
They also show that it is far better, and invigorating for scientific debate, to point out what is not known. Above all, they show how glorious proper science is.
Wouldn’t it have been wonderful if all the billions, spent on making poor old CO2 the villain in a political drama, had been spent on doing proper climate research instead.
With so much unknown in that field, so much still to discover, it is a pity that the present practitioners of climate science, as represented by The Team, have stymied research of the unknowns. It could have become a great subject to study …

crosspatch
January 10, 2012 12:23 pm

Although there are probably other factors as well. Recall that the YD is supposedly due to the deflection of the oceanic conveyor belt so that the Gulf Stream circulated well south of where it goes now, supposedly caused by a lake of freshwater that diluted the Arctic “suddenly” as a major ice dam melted and drained, well, “Canada”.

And the same happened during the 8.2ky event when the last of the glacial ice cap apparently gave way and opened what is now Hudson Bay and the larger glacial lake behind it to the Arctic ocean. There were probably several of these events but we had strong enough insolation to maintain an ice free arctic ocean in Summer. That would have been at about the peak of summer insolation.
There are *many* feedbacks that come into play. For example, as the sea levels drop, many shallowly submerged volcanoes in places such as the Red Sea, the Azores, and the Canary Islands (among other places) begin to erupt into the atmosphere instead of seeing their eruptive material dissipate relatively unnoticed into the sea. Also, as ice builds up and sea levels change, there could be some changes in Earth’s rotational mechanics. The length of day would shorten slightly as water is moved from the equator to the North polar region. Looking at a polar view map of ice extent at the LGM, it appears that the rotational pole of Earth might have migrated a bit toward Ellesmere Island in response to mass redistribution.
One paper I found interesting recently is this one that shows absolutely stunning changes in temperature on a decadal scale during the last glacial period:
http://www.clim-past.net/7/1247/2011/cp-7-1247-2011.pdf
Looking at Figure 2 on the 6th page of the PDF, we see several very rapid increases in temperatures followed by gradual cooling. There are also a smaller number of very rapid cooling events, too. In this case, speleothem records from caves in the Alps are compared to Greenland ice core data where it can be seen that most of these rapid changes in temperature are not regional events to Greenland. In fact, we often see the warming starting earlier in the Alps providing a “precursor” signal to what will happen in Greenland relatively shortly after. But the important thing is that we see these rapid “kicks” both positive and negative. Where we happen to be in the insolation cycle probably determines if one of these “kicks” flips us to the opposite stable state. As the interglacial state seems to depend on above average summer insolation of the NH, it seems reasonable that it would be the shortest lived state. Southern Hemisphere insolation doesn’t appear to play much of a role as Antarctica seems to remain glaciated at all times regardless of the state of the system.

Scott Covert
January 10, 2012 12:33 pm

Ah now comes Global Cooling (TM).
Hansen just gets richer.
Paint your new white rooftop black. Pfft! We will adapt to whatever nature throws at us. If a population decrease is needed, we will do it slowly through the economics of child rearing etc… GM crops will be cold tollerant and will grow in lower lattitudes. Africa will be the next superpower. We’ll eat the pleantifull bread made in India from African wheat. Technology will prevail, fear is not going to help anyone.

Richard G
January 10, 2012 1:11 pm

“Like limiting the world’s population of 7 billion and counting. Like decreasing the range between the haves and the have-nots, lifting up the world to civilization…. Like being good stewards of our environment, something that sadly, no tragically, has been actually reduced as a distraction with all of the attention concentrated on CO_2.”>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
The only acceptable way to limit the population is to enable the population to self limit. This is achievable by raising living standards throughout the world. Demographics show that fertility rates go down as living standards and longevity go up. Assured reproductive success allows people the luxury of lower birth rates. Negative feedback. This is facilitated by affordable and available energy. The sad irony of the CO2 debate is that carbon is the currency of the biosphere’s economy, the money supply if you will. Even with the advent of nuclear energy (fission and fusion) the use of hydrocarbon energy will still be a desirable thing if for no other reason than it’s fertilizer effect. Get it out of the mattress and into circulation where it can do work For us. The imperative is that we use it wisely. I am afraid that far too many people are blissfully unaware of how their lifestyle is only obtained and maintained through the use and availability of cheap energy. Go Polywell.

January 10, 2012 1:27 pm

ferd berple says:
January 9, 2012 at 8:28 pm
Edit wikipedia to fix the problem. The reference is “cliamte” so it is inaccurate for someone to use “weather” in the sentence.

No way. It was so back in 2008:
http://web.archive.org/web/20080228114204/http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaos_theory
But they don’t want any chaos related to climate any more. They would rather elimante the reference.

January 10, 2012 1:54 pm

I recommend the Book, ICE – A chilling scientific forecast of a new Ice Age by Fred Hoyle – published already 1981. The real long geological perspectives adressed.

Theo Goodwin
January 10, 2012 2:17 pm

crosspatch quotes:
January 9, 2012 at 5:31 pm
“I kept getting “But you’re not a climate scientist” rebuttals.”
And we should come back with “No climate scientist is a physicist because none of them propose physical hypotheses; rather, every one of them is nothing but a minor league or homegrown statistician.”

Theo Goodwin
January 10, 2012 2:23 pm

Robert of Ottawa says:
January 9, 2012 at 6:37 pm
‘Thing to remember is: Chaos theory applies to quantized phase space; not real space.

Chaos theory is a theory that explains why “We don’t know eff!”’
Excellent point that deserves serious attention from everyone. If there is ever to be a climate science that can explain and predict climate phenomena then its principles will require application in the real world. The Devil is in the details and climate science, so-called, studiously avoids them.

January 10, 2012 2:25 pm

I recommend the Book, ICE – A chilling scientific forecast of a new Ice Age by Fred Hoyle – published already 1981. The real geological perspectives adressed.
Back from the mid-60’s through the mid-70’s, the hot topic was whether the dip from 1945 on presaged the advent of the next ice age. All of the current alarmism was the vogue then as well, but it was alarmism regarding cooling, because the local climate cycle had cooled from 1945 on, and there were some fairly bitter and prolonged winters with lots of snow in there. I used to trick or treat in the snow in Skaneateles, NY, in the stretch 1967-1970 — the snow would fall in mid-October and stay on the ground until March. I remember sitting in school in May watching the snow come down outside. In the late 50’s, my mother said she saw snowfall every month of the year while living in Skaneateles.
Fred Hoyle is a very interesting guy. He lost the great Big Bang vs Stead State Universe debate when the 3K microwave background was discovered, the “smoking gun” of the Big Bang. He used to write SF novels in addition to doing some pretty serious physics. And yeah, he was a professional iconoclast. I’m guessing he wrote most of the book before 1981 and then stubbornly went ahead and published it even though the world had arguably turned the corner away from cooling at that point (while not yet starting in with the current warming hysteria).
The warming hysteria isn’t new either. Back in the 1920’s the arctic largely melted, and newspapers were full of alarmism and concern that seals and polar bears and so on were endangered. That was (IIRC) the first point where the idea of a CO_2 catastrophe was first introduced. Good ideas are always ready to be reused, right?
It is just too damned hard to say that we don’t know why the arctic warmed in the 20’s, and we don’t know why it warmed again in the 80s and 90s. It’s correlated (some) with solar state, but that doesn’t seem like a sufficient explanation. CO_2 isn’t even close to a sufficient explanation, especially for the dip in the 1945-1965 era. We don’t really know why the average temperature varies at all. We cannot explain, individually or in concert, the variations in global temperature visible in the many proxy records — stalactites or ice cores. Again there are correlations, but no single factor is sufficient, not even Holy CO_2.
I really don’t find this all that surprising. The Earth is a rather complex system. Arguably the most complex system that we have ever studied, given that everything we know and everything we study is in some sense about the Earth, from basic physics and cosmology right through evolutionary biology. Learning about it is the only really worthwhile human pastime, aside from mastering World of Warcraft and creating art. Everything else is just fulfilling biological imperatives, and we can only do that efficiently to the extent that we understand everything about the world that we live in, at least everything that we can.
Who knows, in another few centuries, we might even get there! Or at least, get closer…
rgb

Theo Goodwin
January 10, 2012 2:28 pm

DirkH says:
January 9, 2012 at 7:17 pm
“Ecologists have throughout the 70ies and 80ies tried to simulate Runge-Kutta systems, describing ecosystems, with classical cybernetics, using analog computing networks; these are not quantized in any way. They wanted to find equilibrium conditions but their models kept oscillating unpredictably. (one such researcher was George van Dyne)”
So, their efforts to apply their ideas to physical reality failed. Why are you giving them a pass? Physicists have to abide by Galileo’s standard of “well confirmed physical hypotheses that can explain and predict the (real world) phenomena in question.” Do you want a lower standard for your ecologists?

J Martin
January 10, 2012 2:32 pm

RGB said;
” The Earth’s climate is in fact proven empirically (probably) stable for at least one more additional degree absolute and at least down to 2-3 almost completely missing solar cycles. ”
Now that’s seriously interesting. Can you do an article on that please.
Obliquity is currently 23.5 degrees and decreasing. So does less obliquity mean warmer, I wonder. So might the World in fact miss the next glaciation altogether ?
On a more pessimistic note you said ” perhaps we can get our act together and figure out how to live together in a civilized world, not a few civilized countries where people are well off and all the rest where they are poor and more or less enslaved by a handful of tyrants or religious oligarchs. ”
Yes perhaps we can, but only with a much smaller population size. A full blown glaciation will deliver that population reduction. But of more immediate interest, will be the impact of of a near Maunder style minimum in the next 20 or so years, given that the Worlds population is so very much larger, and food supply is possibly as tenuous as it was then despite modern farming methods.

January 10, 2012 2:54 pm

Dr. Brown,
Thanks for your recent posts. I think everyone here would agree that the science on what effects global, let alone local climate ( which is what I care about in the here in now and for the next 50 years) isn’t settled. I concur 100% with “The Earth is a rather complex system.”
Personally I keep getting stuck on when I should be using physics first principle say E=mc^2 , Pv=nrt, heat and energy balance equations, vs considering, or is it including, the effects of emergent biological process that seem to keep happening on my homestead all the time. I leave a water bucket out for the gophers, moles, etc so that they don’t fall into our horse water buckets and/or eat a hole through my irrigation lines. I think I have found a few of the missing watts……………. My bucket ends up with a fair mass of algae (my water comes from a well) in it. More heat more algae, the energy went to the biological systems to make some mass. The pond across the street from me is a bigger example of how the biological world responds to a dab more heat- more plant material……… A day like today lots of mass is being generated it’s- 62f.
Thanks for your posts, and as long as my electrical energy costs don’t keep going up to much (someone has to pay for the output of the large utility scale PV farms that Mr Buffett and other other investors are buying up to help our state meet the 33%RES) I will continue filling up my water bucket. The pond across the street doesn’t need human intervention to convert some of the extra watts of energy into some mass. A natural springs has been running since the gold rush days (likely longer but we don’t have any data……….. ) that keeps the pond full.

January 10, 2012 2:56 pm

“Sparks says:
January 9, 2012 at 8:34 pm
Deterministic chaos, that’s interesting!”
Wikipedia on chaos theory:
Chaos theory studies the behavior of dynamical systems that are highly sensitive to initial conditions, an effect which is popularly referred to as the butterfly effect ……….. even though these systems are deterministic, meaning that their future behavior is fully determined by their initial conditions, with no random elements involved. In other words, the deterministic nature of these systems does not make them predictable. This behavior is known as deterministic chaos, or simply chaos.

Bart
January 10, 2012 6:07 pm

J Martin says:
January 10, 2012 at 2:32 pm
“Yes perhaps we can, but only with a much smaller population size.”
Ridiculous. People, on average, produce more than they must consume. As a result, it is a given that having more people makes everyone wealthier, as the extra production per person increases the per capita surplus of goods and services progressively above and beyond that needed for subsistence. Such a sentiment can only be expressed by someone who takes all the benefits of a larger population for granted, and thinks they will all still be there when the population is reduced.

Richard G
January 10, 2012 6:18 pm

Theo Goodwin says:
January 10, 2012 at 2:28 pm
DirkH says:
January 9, 2012 at 7:17 pm
Ecologists…wanted to find equilibrium conditions but their models kept oscillating unpredictably.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
So, their efforts to apply their ideas to physical reality failed.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
And the real world doesn’t oscillate unpredictably? Seems to me they confirmed my observations. But then I’m only an Ecologist trained to observe, deduct and speculate, not predict an unpredictable system. Some things simply defy mathematical reduction. That is reality.

Myrrh
January 10, 2012 6:40 pm

Philip Peake says:
January 9, 2012 at 4:14 pm
That was an *extremely* good read. Thank you.
Ditto, I enjoyed it too.
……………………….
Doug Cotton says:
January 9, 2012 at 4:23 pm
“A very interesting article. My only comment is that there is in fact no warming effect from carbon dioxide because it has been proved by Professors Claes Johnson (1) and Nasif Nahle (2) that backradiation cannot warm the surface. But there could be a cooling effect due to carbon dioxide, so the reference to the next “Little Ice Age” (which I suspect could happen within 450 to 600 years) does become perhaps a greater concern.”
(1) http://www.csc.kth.se/~cgjoh/blackbodyslayer.pdf
Robert Brown says:
January 10, 2012 at 11:17 am
It is reasonable to conclude that some of that warming has been due to anthropogenic changes including CO_2, land use changes, irrigation, blowing black soot around, air pollution, and so on. It’s really OK even for a skeptic to include CO_2 in the list, also — it is silly not to as noted above.
Which might make sense to some, but, what you noted above says:
I frankly doubt the proof. First of all, backradiation does not “warm the surface”, sure, but it damn sure can slow its daytime cooling and increase the retention of heat. Go out and buy a “space blanket” — one of those ultrathin reflective pieces of plastic — and wrap your hand in it. Second, the physical mechanism is well understood, makes sense, and is consistent with laboratory experiments.
How does equating CO2 with a space blanket when it is less than 99.96% of the atmosphere, and the anthropogenic contribution of that around 3%, make for a reasonable conviction that if the whole becomes doubled it will make even a rough 1°C increase in temperature? A blanket with so many holes is keeping this heat in? How? And, your secondly, please do describe these laboratory experiments which have made this mechanism well understood and making sense. I’ve yet to see any such experiment in the years I’ve been looking for proof.
If you want more proof, note the correlation between nighttime temperature and clouds. I mean this one is simple — you can do it yourself almost any winter night that start out cloudy but is due to clear or vice versa. The temperature is extremely uniform as long as there are clouds overhead backscattering heat and hence slowing radiative cooling, but as soon as the clouds depart it cools, even if there is almost no wind (so it isn’t just that the air coming in is cooler). Finally, note the diurnal temperature differential for hot deserts as a function of local humidity. When it is dry, it is as large as 45C. When the air is relatively humid, it is much smaller.
? The clouds, if cloud cover extensive, slow down convection, and heat rises, especially if there is no wind…. Deserts show us what the temperatures would likely be over the Earth without the Water Cycle, which is that the Earth would be some 52°C hotter because evaporation takes the heat of the Sun’s direct thermal radiation warming of land up and away thereby cooling the Earth. So yes, there is a greenhouse effect, but the detail I’m arguing about is that this has been wrongly been categorised as greenhouse gases having a warming effect, when the main greenhouse gas water vapour is the prime cooling agent of the atmosphere. And I say this is the major argument with the ‘greenhouse scenario dynamics’ and should be settled first.
The major argument involves the feedbacks and the details of the dynamics. If there is no feedback at all, a doubling of atmospheric CO_2 would lead to a probable increase in mean temperature of the Earth of roughly 1C, not really a problem. If there is net-negative feedback (which I offer a possibly “new” argument for above, although in the world it probably isn’t unique) it will probably be less than 1C. If there is net-positive feedback, it will probably be greater.
I have the most basic need to understand what you’re saying here. Even if Carbon Dioxide levels quadrupled, what difference can it possibly make? It doesn’t accumulate in the atmosphere but is fully part of the Water Cycle, all pure clean rain water being carbonic acid, no matter how much is in the atmosphere at any particular point in time it descends to Earth in the colder rain, when it isn’t descending anyway since it’s heavier than air, and compared with the real cooling of the major greenhouse gas water any ‘warming’ it might do is even more insignificant against this dynamic than even being a practically 100% holey blanket in the atmosphere.
but about the details, in particular how greenhouse trapping of heat due to CO_2 in general and anthropogenic CO_2 in particular
Carbon dioxide is an extremely poor trapper of heat – in other words, it doesn’t, it releases its heat practically instantly – oxygen and nitrogen hold onto heat longer and water significantly longer which is what makes it such a good cooling mechanism in our atmosphere.

January 10, 2012 6:57 pm

To Dr. R.G. Brown or anyone else who can enlighten me:
In response to Dr. Brown’s comment at 1/10/12/11:17 a.m. regarding the 11,000 yr. grand solar maximum: I have noticed on “skeptic” and “lukewarmer” blogs alike that everyone seems to accept that for the late 20th century, the PMOD reconstruction (or something like it – Svalgaard) is correct such that TSI decreased from from the late1980’s to the early 2000’s. Please point me to the definitive proof that the Scafetta and Willson’s Acrim Gap Reconstruction was in error.
To Dr. Brown: In your comment [at 1/10/12/12:17 P.M.] you state that there was a “significant” decease in global temperature from 1945 to 1965. But how can this possibly be correct? Hansen and GissTemp have shown, haven’t they, that there was virtually no decrease in global temperature during that period?

January 10, 2012 7:04 pm

Leigh B. Kelley,
In fact there was a significant temperature decline during that time:

Myrrh
January 10, 2012 7:10 pm

Bart says:
January 10, 2012 at 6:07 pm
J Martin says:
January 10, 2012 at 2:32 pm
“Yes perhaps we can, but only with a much smaller population size.”
Ridiculous. People, on average, produce more than they must consume. As a result, it is a given that having more people makes everyone wealthier, as the extra production per person increases the per capita surplus of goods and services progressively above and beyond that needed for subsistence. Such a sentiment can only be expressed by someone who takes all the benefits of a larger population for granted, and thinks they will all still be there when the population is reduced.
=============
Well said.
Seems we can’t all fit onto the Isle of Wight anymore, http://www.ampneycrucis.f9.co.uk/PARK/Population.htm
but, I think we all get a house and garden in Texas. Ah, not now:
” Well, the initial calculation was done by Thomas Sowell in 1984, when the world’s population was 4.4 billion. http://www.carlopelanda.com/econaut/Butler%20Richard%20on%20Population%20Growth.htm
Quote:
In 1984, it was proven by the economist Thomas Sowell that the entire world population (4.4 billion at the time) could live comfortably in the state of Texas. He wrote “Every human being on the face of the Earth could be housed in the state of Texas in one-story, single-family homes, each with a front and a back yard. A family of four would thus have 6,800 square feet- about the size of the typical middle-class American home with front and backyards.”(Carter 99) According to more recent research on the topic, all of the world’s 1997 population (5.84 billion) could fit on the small Island of Bali in Indonesia.(Stiefel 98) ”
Does put it into perspective though… 🙂

January 10, 2012 7:18 pm

Robert Brown said @ January 10, 2012 at 2:25 pm

The Earth is a rather complex system. Arguably the most complex system that we have ever studied, given that everything we know and everything we study is in some sense about the Earth, from basic physics and cosmology right through evolutionary biology. Learning about it is the only really worthwhile human pastime, aside from mastering World of Warcraft and creating art. Everything else is just fulfilling biological imperatives, and we can only do that efficiently to the extent that we understand everything about the world that we live in, at least everything that we can.

There is the other hard problem: the mind and I suspect we won’t understand the world without some better understanding of the understander. And I disagree about World of Warcraft; Pompous Gits prefer Civilization; turn-based allows more time think strategy.
OTOH, your essay on climate is easily the best I’ve read and I have read a rather large number since being interviewed on Australian national radio as part of a panel these many long years ago (20+?). The conclusion I reached at the time was that none of the interviewees knew WTF they were talking about including me. I had recently read Gleik’s Chaos and reached much the same sort of conclusions you reach here, so confirmation bias likely comes into it. Many thanks; you write very well.

F. Ross
January 10, 2012 9:33 pm

davidmhoffer says:
January 9, 2012 at 11:01 pm
Right on!..
That is why, when I see “R. Gates says,” my eyes kind of glaze over and the mind shifts into neutral until I skip to the next comment.

A. Scott
January 10, 2012 10:22 pm

Dr. Brown … I agree we have seen a net cooling trend over the last 10,000 years or so of natural variability … that said – at least compared to the three most recent prior inter-glacial peaks – it would seem we have not reached the “peak” yet … some mechanism has halted the rise, and put the climate into a 12,000 or so year, mostly steady state … at temps well below the recent (last 3 cycles or so) expected inter-glacial maximum.
Something triggered this stopped increase, and precipitated the climate entering into the current steady state we’ve seen for 12,000 years. It certainly was not CO2. And it was bot human habitation. Neither significantly changed 12,000 years ago.
To me that is the great question – what was that trigger?
We are wasting a lot of effort and money on the CO2 ruse – when it is highly unlikely to be any real culprit or contributor. And ignoring whatever really caused the stability we’ve seen for 12,000 years.

January 11, 2012 6:55 am

Ridiculous. People, on average, produce more than they must consume. As a result, it is a given that having more people makes everyone wealthier, as the extra production per person increases the per capita surplus of goods and services progressively above and beyond that needed for subsistence. Such a sentiment can only be expressed by someone who takes all the benefits of a larger population for granted, and thinks they will all still be there when the population is reduced.
To use a bit of reductio ad absurdum, let’s look at two limit points. One is a world population of one person. OK, that’s a bit lonely and not self-replicating, headed for extinction. So there is a clear marginal benefit to adding more people, and enormous benefit when the population is very small. Now consider a world where we have filled every available acre of land with a house or a factory, where we’ve tunnelled underground to fill ten floors of underground with houses and factories, where we’ve covered the ocean with houseboats and factories, where we use every watt of solar energy plus thermonuclear fusion to provide energy for everybody, and have basically expanded to the limits of scarcity for every critical resource. Animals and “the biosphere” are just a memory — there are some trees and plants on the enormously expensive property of the surface dwellers but the oxygen cycle now involves gene-tailored algae power grown on every horizontal surface to produce foodstock. Hmmm, sounds like this might suck too.
Let’s also be aware that human ability to produce more than they consume to produce modern civilization is primarily predicated on technology. We reached the limit of synthetic advantage otherwise way back in the earliest city-states. For any given technological level, starting at the low-population side one hits a point of diminishing returns where benefits of more people level out. As the undesirable high side also demonstrates, at some point the marginal returns don’t just diminish, they decrease. In between, as a matter of pure reason, fundamental theorem of calculus or something like that, there is an optimum.
The optimum is determined by a number of things. How much land do we want to be able to “own” in our imagination of a wealthier world? Some people think that people who make a lot of money and live in an apartment in Manhattan that would fit into my living room and dining room combined are well-off, but I’m guessing that they are in a minority as we aren’t rushing out to build arkologies. Do we consider things like forests, the ability to go hunting and fishing, the preservation of natural ecosystems in parks and conservation of species worldwide to be “wealth” and do we count ourselves poorer as that wealth diminishes? Is there a point of diminishing returns, wealth-wise, or is owning two cars and two houses, three cars and three houses (cars and houses being a traditional measure of wealth once one can pay for food and clothing and more mundane affairs) per person? Does “wealth” linearize? There are finite resources underlying much that we consider wealth. Platinum (used to make cars). Rare earths (used to make semiconductors). Oil (plastics, if not gasoline and oil for cars and fertilizers). Iron. Aluminum. Coal. Uranium. Wood. Meat. Fish. Grain. We cannot increase mining or production of these resources without bound, and the costs of generating most of these follow inexorable economic laws and go up as we increase demand for them, up rapidly as we approach the limits of supply. I think it is pretty clear that the optimum we might build in our mind’s eye, while no doubt somewhat different for every person, is very definitely not something that scales without bound with the population.
So sure, your assertion that at some population levels (given a resource and technology base) there is a marginal advantage to a higher population is correct. But in general it is not the case that a larger population always leads to more wealth per capita — at some point you have to start divvying up the finite wealth you’ve got tied up in one or more critical resources.
Now let’s look at the world. The wealthiest countries — per capita — are they the ones with the highest populations? They are not. Even in India and China, two countries that are in the middle of modernizing at a furious pace, driven by remarkably well-educated and ambitious populations, the new wealth generated by modernization runs square into the population problem.
I can best speak to India, as I lived there seven years growing up and have visited there again fairly recently, well after they began their recent frenetic push to modern times. Understand, the population of India is roughly three times that of the United States. This population is living in a country that is roughly 1/3 the land area of the United States. Of that land area, only around 1/3 is really suitable for occupation — land use in India is necessarily centered on rivers and water sources and has to avoid both mountains and large tracts that aren’t quite desert, but aren’t sufficiently watered to support agriculture. In India the primary rivers are all gods (or goddesses) because they support life. It is, in other words, a landscape where the population has always lived bounded by scarcity.
During the partition, tens of millions of people were driven both ways across the borders. India promised the refugees land, but of course there was no land — the land abandoned by the Muslims being driven the other way was instantly snapped up by neighbors and farms in India have been passed down from father to son for hundreds of years — “entailment” in medieval England had nothing on India. The actual place most of the refugees “resettled” was on streetcorners in the cities, where they built shanties and tried to stay alive.
When I recently returned, the great-grandchildren of those resettled people were still living on the same street corners, joined by the vast numbers of second, third, and fourth children flowing in a constant stream from the rural farms, that cannot subdivide the family farms any more and still end up with a farm that will support a family. There is still no land — there is less available land than there was sixty years ago and far more price pressure on what little there is, and these are the poorest people you can imagine. I saw linear miles of Mumbai streets with 10 foot sidewalks that would have been spacious and beautiful — if it weren’t for the fact that the population density living on those sidewalks was close to one person per linear meter of streetside. Call it thirty square feet per person, a whole economy. People walked in the streets if they wanted to get by. I saw spaces between two buildings, separated by maybe sixty feet, that had been filled with bamboo superstructure four stories high, floored and roofed with tin sheets, and housed an entire warren, a miniature city within a city, with its entire water supply one single tap in the middle of the field that served the entire community for what open fields always serve the rural Indian population.
This is an example of life on the far side of the optimum. It doesn’t matter what sort of wealth India manages to generate for a growing middle class, not really. It has always had a wealthy and middle class (by Western standards). But there are simple limits one how much they can grow, or what the benefits of that “wealth” are compared to here, where I live on a 1/2 acre plot in a 3200 square foot house (currently occupied by three people and a dog) with deer that eat my flowers and squirrels and rabbits in my tree-filled yard, with lakes a short drive away and a boat and a car and lots of clothes and a wife with more purses than one can count — there is apparently no point of diminishing returns in “purse wealth” for women, dammit. The only way India can really become wealthy is to cut its population by 2/3! The only way China can really become wealthy (per capita, remember) is to cut its population by 1/2! Even Japan, which already is wealthy, is sorely constrained by overcrowding, and its population is dropping all on its own, tired of living cramped into cities no matter how productive cities are.
Where do wealthy people live in US cities? Mostly “not”. That’s why God invented suburbs and commuting. Most people would rather have a house of their own with their own yard and trees than live in a small apartment in the middle of a big apartment building, and even if the people living in that apartment building make more money, they are not wealthier.
In most of the developing world, population is an enormous problem. Yes, their use of technology is limited, their lives could be improved substantially even at their current population levels — but in the end, they are constrained by hard resource limits — available water, available usable land — or by technologies and wealth that it takes generations to build and generations of still larger populations would eat the benefits faster than they could be reaped.
This still doesn’t address, not really, what the ideal, optimum, population carrying capacity of the Earth is. That doesn’t really have an answer. It has a lot of local answers, and some global constraints. The Earth is an enormous example of the Tragedy of the Commons (by Garret Hardin) — an essay I would encourage you to read. Real wealth is the maintenance of unexploited commons, so that all of the extant population (whatever it is) has relatively free access without having unbounded access. We can all use the public parks, but “use” doesn’t mean we can walk in and homestead there, or use them to dump our garbage, or cut down all of their timber, or go hunting there with helicopters and machine guns. If we were “free” to do the latter, we’d have no parks left and the commons would be destroyed, and at a sufficient population pressure, the cost of maintaining the commons or the share of the commons each person gets drops eventually to where it isn’t worth much. Central Park in New York City isn’t much, split up among literally millions of people, not compared to the Smokies in Western NC.
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January 11, 2012 7:08 am

And the real world doesn’t oscillate unpredictably? Seems to me they confirmed my observations. But then I’m only an Ecologist trained to observe, deduct and speculate, not predict an unpredictable system. Some things simply defy mathematical reduction. That is reality.
I wouldn’t say that it defies mathematical reduction, only that it is a study of intertwining relationships, many of which can be “reduced” to mathematics if only statistically. Remember, math embraces “greater than” and “less than” reasoning and logic (or is it vice versa), not just functional analysis. However yes, quantitative predictions are often nearly impossible (although not always) because the models become more and more complex until they fail — they aren’t really computable, except using e.g. Langevin equation simulation with a fair bit of noise, and then all one gets is an ensemble of outcomes.
But as the predator-prey equations demonstrate, one can reduce some relationships to math — just don’t expect reality to precisely follow the model, not in a complex world where not just foxes eat rabbits and foxes die from things besides starvation.
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January 11, 2012 7:13 am

To Dr. Brown: In your comment [at 1/10/12/12:17 P.M.] you state that there was a “significant” decease in global temperature from 1945 to 1965. But how can this possibly be correct? Hansen and GissTemp have shown, haven’t they, that there was virtually no decrease in global temperature during that period?
I am monumentally skeptical about modern attempts to recompute global temperature estimates across that period, conducted by people who have invested their entire career into proving CAGW, notably Hansen. Hansen (along with Mann and a few others) is one that has absolutely zero credibility in my book. Every textbook and the IPCC reports themselves all uniformly showed a significant drop during that period right up to the point where Mann showed them all how to produce temperature reconstructions that are whatever they want them to be, and the benefits of doing exactly that.
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Viv Evans
January 11, 2012 8:05 am

Robert Brown says on January 11, 2012 at 7:08 am:
“But as the predator-prey equations demonstrate, one can reduce some relationships to math — just don’t expect reality to precisely follow the model, not in a complex world where not just foxes eat rabbits and foxes die from things besides starvation.”
Yes, indeed so.
In the complex real world one then finds that some prey populations just don’t do what the model suggests, but evade being eaten by those pesky foxes.
Then the biologists stand there, scratch their heads, and remember the absolutely vital question which must be asked in all such cases: “if not – why not?”.
It is the answer to the ‘why not’ which, after much observation (usually in the rain and cold …), produces explanations which drive the science (biology) forward.

January 11, 2012 8:33 am

Thanks Smokey [1/10 at 7:04 p.m.] and Dr. Brown [1/11 at 7:13 a.m.]. I certainly agree with both of you on the mid-century temp. decline. The “haven’t they” I inserted was a lame attempt at sarcasm. Regarding my first question about the Scafetta-Willson ACRIM Gap recon, their conclusion was that there was a significant ramp up1980’s to early 2000’s) in TSI alone (without secondary mechanisms, e.g., cosmic ray decline) which implied a global temp. increase during that period which constituted a correspondingly significant portion of the overall observed surface temp. increase. This was the opposite of the Frohlich and Lean PMOD Recon over the ACRIM satellite gap. When I have a chance to get at my copy of the Scafetta paper I can supply the TSI and implied temp. increase numbers they came up with. What I am seriously interested in is whether Scafetta and Willson have been shown to be seriously in error.

January 11, 2012 10:53 am

It is the answer to the ‘why not’ which, after much observation (usually in the rain and cold …), produces explanations which drive the science (biology) forward.
And I have the greatest respect for my colleagues in biology, and ecology, and environmental science, and… pretty much all of the sciences, and most of the soft sciences and humanities. We’re all on the same side — understanding how everything works, bringing the light of knowledge to a world of ignorance (including ourselves). It’s damn hard work, often in obscure little nooks and corners of the total corpus, but every little bit of work, well done, advances the boundaries of the known. To quote Tennyson,
an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
What it’s all about, baby. Even most climate scientists, I firmly believe, are honest and honorable; they’ve just let themselves be seduced by the twin sirens of “saving the world” and “getting research support and a certain amount of fame doing it”. They are, after all, only human. They let themselves become catspaws — willing catspaws, perhaps — of a political elite with a global agenda that has little to do, really, with the climate.
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January 11, 2012 11:09 am

The “haven’t they” I inserted was a lame attempt at sarcasm.
Not lame, but don’t forget to add smileys! For example, 😛 or 😉 would have clued me in to your tongue in cheek or sly wink. Don’t forget, this is an open site and people do defend both sides of the issue, often quite well. No, we don’t get a lot of input from Michael Mann or James Hansen, but I’m pretty impressed with the science offered up even by the supporters of the CAGW hypothesis, when they aren’t shouted down by acclamation. Which I think is a mistake, BTW — I think that where a good-faith argument is advanced, a good-faith rebuttal is in order. Remember, the world doesn’t really consist of “warmists” and “deniers” even though the labels are used as part of the rhetoric. It consists of humans, and warmists are just humans that weigh what they know of the science and come down on one side of the issue. Sometimes skeptical arguments that are pretty much bullshit are offered up as well — in all cases, bullshit arguments should get called, really by both sides. Skeptics don’t do the skeptical case any favors by being uncritical of any argument as long as it is supports the skeptical conclusion. That’s far more characteristic (I hope) of the “warmist” community, at least some parts of it.
As you may have noticed, I will call people on it myself if I hear bullshit physics offered up in skeptical argument, such as “there is no such thing as the CO_2 Greenhouse Gas Effect”. Piffle, of course there is. The only question is how large it is (with sensitivity/feedback accounted for), and whether it is “the signal” or “the noise” compared to the other drivers. Claiming that there is no such thing ignores basic physics and is just silly; it’s the kind of thing that permits “warmists” to rightly claim that skeptics are “deniers”, because you can’t deny a straight up physical argument with ample experimental support.
Similarly I’ve had some harsh things to say about efforts to argue that there is some sort of “adiabatic warming” associated with the ideal gas law at work in the atmosphere. I’ve taught intro physics, including thermodynamics, for over 30 years, and I have absolutely no clue what that could possible mean. Heat requires a source of free energy, and in an open system in radiative “contact” with a 3K blackbody “perfect absorber” (the rest of the Universe, within a hair) it requires an ongoing flow of free energy to maintain an (approximate) equilibrium temperature. Adiabatic compression leading to warming is not a steady state source of energy in the system — the real source of all the energy that flows as air masses rise and fall is Mr. Sun, almost without exception and almost without any other really significant contribution from elsewhere. And I would be perfectly happy to debate the hell out of that with any and all takers online.
If we clean up the science in the skeptical arguments, we only improve them, and make it more difficult for them to ignore (at least, more difficult to dismiss out of hand).
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Spector
January 11, 2012 12:41 pm

Perhaps there is a strange attraction to the visulization or imagination of a coming catastrophe–but then again, sometimes, the wolf really is at the door…

Lee
January 11, 2012 12:52 pm

My first post to this blog (although a medium term lurker..)
That was a great read. Eye opening to say the least, and it gave my brain a good work out. Better than going to the gym!

Myrrh
January 11, 2012 3:04 pm

rgb
Robert Brown says:
January 11, 2012 at 11:09 am
[Moderator’s Request: Myrrh, please go back and read Dr. Brown’s comments in context. If you still have an objection, maybe you’d consider… ummm, moderating it? -REP]

Paul
January 11, 2012 3:21 pm

Climatologist have always seemed to have an universal ignorance of what mathematical chaos is and isn’t. Perhaps it’s denial of fact, must be tough to even consider that your life’s work of trying to predict the un-predictable is a waste of effort. The simple fact is chaotic systems are It is self-similar (at least approximately or stochastically) so if weather a short term instance of climate is chaotic, then so is climate chaotic. Yet Feigenbaum showed that even unstable dynamical system like the Bifrication diagram of the Logistics Map has a surprising predictability.

Myrrh
January 11, 2012 4:32 pm

Myrrh says:
January 11, 2012 at 3:04 pm
rgb
Robert Brown says:
January 11, 2012 at 11:09 am
[Moderator’s Request: Myrrh, please go back and read Dr. Brown’s comments in context. If you still have an objection, maybe you’d consider… ummm, moderating it? -REP]
? I gave the context – I quoted him exactly. Look, I’m really, really fed up with this ‘distinction’ being made that those refusing to buy into the crap science that both anti and pro AGW claim exists – without any proof – that there is such a critter as ‘greenhouse gas warming’ and ‘proved science that CO2 is such a greenhouse gas therefore contributing to warming’ – it’s nonsense.
I’ve given sensible basic physics about CO2 and water vapour, and instead of directly replying to my post I got the crap assumptions regurgitated. I’m really getting annoyed with these kind of arrogant dismissals – please, put my post back. I’m addressing a very specific point here which no amount of well written ‘anti AGW’ can balance. I want answers.
[Moderator’s Reply: It’s a good thing I usually keep copies of what I snip…. just for moments like this. As you wish… -REP]
As you may have noticed, I will call people on it myself if I hear bullshit physics offered up in skeptical argument, such as “there is no such thing as the CO_2 Greenhouse Gas Effect”. Piffle, of course there is. The only question is how large it is (with sensitivity/feedback accounted for), and whether it is “the signal” or “the noise” compared to the other drivers. Claiming that there is no such thing ignores basic physics and is just silly; it’s the kind of thing that permits “warmists” to rightly claim that skeptics are “deniers”, because you can’t deny a straight up physical argument with ample experimental support.
Yeah right.. And I call bullshit physics on the garbled nonsense you’re spouting here, repeated ad infinitum with never a smidgin of sensible scientific explanation and it’s always ‘experiments prove’ when no experiments are ever shown that prove any of it. Come on, where the hell is it? The claims made for carbon dioxide are physically impossible. Not least that it lags every dramatic real climate change in and out of interglacials by 800 years! What greenhouse warming when the main greenhouse gas is water vapour and that cools the planet?
Don’t you bloody dare work in ‘deniers’ when you’ve not shown one bit of science to prove that there is such a thing as this AGWSF nonsense that ‘greenhouse gases warm the planet’.
Piffle, of course there isn’t.
Because after thousands and thousands and thousands of hours of realists asking for proof, none is ever provided. NONE. You’re merely assuming it exists, because if it was actually proved you wouldn’t have to bullshit that it ‘exists somewhere’. If you think it exists, show your workings.

Myrrh
January 11, 2012 5:08 pm

Ta very much!
..I hope I get as speedy a response from Robert Brown. 🙂
[REPLY: Myrrh, boyo, be careful about those hopes. Just sayin. -REP]

January 11, 2012 10:43 pm

Dearest Myrrh:
I have only one thing to say. Read:
http://maths.ucd.ie/met/msc/PhysMet/PhysMetLectNotes.pdf
It’s free, don’t worry. Especially read the radiation chapter. Pay close attention, it’s really rather important. When you understand the physics in this book well enough to have a rational discussion, bring it. This is just one place that the proof exists — the proof itself (in terms of the laws of radiation physics) is pretty old — 1896 — and yeah, there’s a fair bit of experimental proof as well, much of it nearly as old.
What you are — or should be — arguing about is not whether or not CO_2 is a greenhouse gas or whether or not the greenhouse effect is responsible for some fraction of the mean temperature anomaly of Earth above the blackbody limit, because nobody sane argues about that, really. Not trying to say that you’re crazy, but well… You should be arguing about the feedback, or the climate sensitivity to CO_2 forcing. There are perfectly good reasons to argue that CO_2 (as a greenhouse gas) is mostly saturated, so that doubling it in the atmosphere has a very small marginal effect. There are also good reasons to believe that it is just one of at least three major factors that couple and together are responsible for the temperature anomaly above the ideal (no atmosphere) blackbody limit.
Read Monckton’s post elsewhere on WUWT. Note how he carefully points out that of course CO_2 is a greenhouse gas, of course the greenhouse effect is real. It is the feedback, the sensitiviity that is at issue, even among skeptics, if the skeptics are not enormously ignorant of basic radiation physics and the fundamental heat flow in and out of the Earth is it is warmed by the Sun and cooled by radiation and only radiation. Because only radiation carries away the heat that arrives from the Sun — the Earth is sitting in this vacuum, you see.
So by all means, give me a quantitative, algebraic proof that absorbing visible light and emitting IR that is partially blocked by CO_2 cannot possibly cause warming. If you’re really good, you can skip ahead to chapter 5.15 and start there — note especially figures 5.14 and 5.15 — they are really the entire argument, if you know how to read them and understand the basic science. It’s not rocket science, it’s Arrhennius. From his wikipedia page:
“Arrhenius estimated that halving of CO2 would decrease temperatures by 4–5 °C (Celsius) and a doubling of CO2 would cause a temperature rise of 5–6 °C.[5] In his 1906 publication, Arrhenius adjusted the value downwards to 1.6 °C (including water vapour feedback: 2.1 °C).”
For a 1906 calculation, he did pretty well. The numbers I’m seeing from skeptics who happen to be competent at physics suggest somewhere between 1 and 2 C, with feedback. That seems to be where Monckton is going, for example.
Oh, and if you want me to reduce all of the complexity for you and describe how the greenhouse effect works in very simple language without math, just ask. Preferrably nicely, but hey, I’m easy. It’s not complicated, not really. Roy Spencer has a good heuristic description in his book, “The Global Warming Blunder” or whatever the title is, if you’d rather read that but you’d have to buy it. It is well worth the money, though.
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phlogiston
January 11, 2012 10:45 pm

Robert Brown
Thank-you for this truly refreshing reality check.
One final very important point — systems that oscillate almost always have negative feedback. In fact, that is the fundamental thing that defines an oscillatory system — it has attractors in it. Attractors are themselves stable (equilibrium) points such that if the system is perturbed from them it is pulled back towards equilibrium, not pushed away from it.
Negative feedback, otherwise referred to as friction, dissipation or damping, is indeed a key ingredient of non-equilibrium pattern systems. Another way of describing a system with multiple attractors is as a limit cycle. While a complex multidimensional system is potentially free to adopt an infinite number of states, instead it is attracted to a limited number of states, the limit cycle.
In this regard it is very interesting to note Bob Tisdale’s recent demonstration that the sea surface temperatures of the world’s oceans excluding the East Pacific (where the ENSO cycle occurs) only rise (or fall) at ENSO events, and SSTs remain static in between such events.
http://bobtisdale.wordpress.com/2011/12/27/on-the-ipccs-undue-confidence-in-coupled-ocean-atmosphere-climate-models-a-summary-of-recent-posts/
The ENSO has been shown by Bob to be apparently the principle driver of global climatic trends, with the recent temperature rise of the last few decades being in fact 2 or 3 step rises in global SST occuring at La Nina events. Could such periods of apparent stasis represent mini-attractors, and the system as a whole resemble a limit cycle?
Another related observation that was posted last January was the apparent resemblance of the ENSO pattern of oscillating East Pacific SSTs with a spatially distributed Belousov-Zhabotinsky reactor – the classic model of a nonlinear oscillator from inorganic chemistry:
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/01/25/is-the-enso-a-nonlinear-oscillator-of-the-belousov-zhabotinsky-reaction-type/

Richard G
January 11, 2012 11:02 pm

“If not – why not?” is the question the Hockey Team is no doubt asking themselves in their quiet little private moments, *if* they are being honest with themselves. It is the question that is usually asked while standing in the ashes of ones hypothesis after testing it. It is often when we learn the most. If you have never failed, you’ve never done anything.
Some failures are more spectacular than others.

Myrrh
January 12, 2012 12:29 pm

Robert Brown says:
January 11, 2012 at 10:43 pm
Dearest Myrrh:
I have only one thing to say. Read:
http://maths.ucd.ie/met/msc/PhysMet/PhysMetLectNotes.pdf

You condescending blank, I’m so disappointed. Don’t give me homework, I’ve asked you to show the experiments which you say exist, you go fetch. And until you do and show your workings keep your bluster to yourself.
It’s free, don’t worry. Especially read the radiation chapter. Pay close attention, it’s really rather important. When you understand the physics in this book well enough to have a rational discussion, bring it. This is just one place that the proof exists — the proof itself (in terms of the laws of radiation physics) is pretty old — 1896 — and yeah, there’s a fair bit of experimental proof as well, much of it nearly as old.
And debunked at the time by himself as well as by others who debunked the whole idea of it, is that mentioned? And that’s the experimental proof you’re claiming as proof? At the dawn of the struggle to understand these things?? You have to be joking…
Anyway, I’m not arguing about radiation, reply to the points I’m making. That would at least give an indication of rationality on your part.
What you are — or should be — arguing about is not whether or not CO_2 is a greenhouse gas or whether or not the greenhouse effect is responsible for some fraction of the mean temperature anomaly of Earth above the blackbody limit, because nobody sane argues about that, really. Not trying to say that you’re crazy, but well… You should be arguing about the feedback, or the climate sensitivity to CO_2 forcing. There are perfectly good reasons to argue that CO_2 (as a greenhouse gas) is mostly saturated, so that doubling it in the atmosphere has a very small marginal effect. There are also good reasons to believe that it is just one of at least three major factors that couple and together are responsible for the temperature anomaly above the ideal (no atmosphere) blackbody limit.
Don’t tell me what I should be arguing about or imply I’m insane because you’re unable to deal with the questions I’m asking and the points I’m making. That’s a cop out. Come on now, empty your pockets, what have you done with the Water Cycle in the greenhouse?
Read Monckton’s post elsewhere on WUWT. Note how he carefully points out that of course CO_2 is a greenhouse gas, of course the greenhouse effect is real.
‘That he carefully points out’ as you ‘point out’, and I’m supposed to take your illogical assumptions on board as if you’re describing real physics? I’m not interested in your presenting this as a religion or who else agrees with you, deal with what I’m saying. Who else calls carbon dioxide a greenhouse house is meaningless – I’m talking about the context here. I’m not arguing that carbon dioxide isn’t a greenhouse gas. I’m saying your claim that greenhouse gases cause warming is unadulterated fantasy physics – of greenhouse gases water vapour is the primary and this cools the Earth. The insignificant amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are part and parcel of that greenhouse cooling.
It is the feedback, the sensitiviity that is at issue, even among skeptics, if the skeptics are not enormously ignorant of basic radiation physics and the fundamental heat flow in and out of the Earth is it is warmed by the Sun and cooled by radiation and only radiation. Because only radiation carries away the heat that arrives from the Sun — the Earth is sitting in this vacuum, you see.
What utter crap! So our atmosphere is a vacuum??! Empty space? Lots of molecules bouncing off each other and flying at great speeds in all directions? Hello??? Can you hear me? Can you hear anything? How does sound travel in your vacuum?
The Earth is sitting in an ocean of fluid gas that has weight and volume and attraction – that moves heat around by convection.
That’s how we get our weather.
So by all means, give me a quantitative, algebraic proof that absorbing visible light and emitting IR that is partially blocked by CO_2 cannot possibly cause warming.
? What twaddle. And algebraic proof?? Do you know what non sequitur is? Give me empirical proof that visible light heats land and oceans.
If you’re really good, you can skip ahead to chapter 5.15 and start there — note especially figures 5.14 and 5.15 — they are really the entire argument, if you know how to read them and understand the basic science. It’s not rocket science, it’s Arrhennius. From his wikipedia page:
“Arrhenius estimated that halving of CO2 would decrease temperatures by 4–5 °C (Celsius) and a doubling of CO2 would cause a temperature rise of 5–6 °C.[5] In his 1906 publication, Arrhenius adjusted the value downwards to 1.6 °C (including water vapour feedback: 2.1 °C).”

Oh what? You had to go the a wiki page for his correction to his earlier work? Isn’t it mentioned in this book that will teach me everything about your fictional global warming greenhouse gases? Does it give the debunking of his ideas at the time?
For a 1906 calculation, he did pretty well. The numbers I’m seeing from skeptics who happen to be competent at physics suggest somewhere between 1 and 2 C, with feedback. That seems to be where Monckton is going, for example.
Well bully for both, but totally irrelevant to my argument.
As I said, you go fetch. Until you provide empirical experimental proof of your claims you’re just posturing that it exists.
And my point – You’ve missed out the Water Cycle.
And to boot – You think visible light heats land and oceans. You think we’re surrounded in a vacuum. Which world are you describing?
Oh, and if you want me to reduce all of the complexity for you and describe how the greenhouse effect works in very simple language without math, just ask. Preferrably nicely, but hey, I’m easy. It’s not complicated, not really. Roy Spencer has a good heuristic description in his book, “The Global Warming Blunder” or whatever the title is, if you’d rather read that but you’d have to buy it. It is well worth the money, though.
But it is complicated, you’re describing a world that doesn’t exist. How can anyone, if they have any interest in doing so, find out how that world works when you can make up anything you like about it?
I’m not interested in arguing about your imaginary world where visible light direct from the Sun heats water. I’m not interested in arguing about your imaginary world where carbon dioxide defies the laws of gravity and accumulates in the atmosphere for hundreds and thousands of years. Etc.
When you decide to refer to the real properties and process of this world, let me know. Until then, think on’t – the main greenhouse gas is water vapour, this cools the real atmosphere by taking heat up and away from the Earth. Until you have included that cycle in your scenario all your algebraic formulae and black body references and claims that greenhouse gases warm the Earth only by radiation in empty space are just so much gobbledegook about an imaginary non-existent world.

phlogiston
January 12, 2012 12:57 pm

This CO2 red herring is clearly a very strong attractor – and a strange one.
This thread was about something different, something interesting – a chaotic / nonlinear paradigm for climate and glacial / interglacial states. But it got sucked into the stale old CO2 argument about nothing.
I sure hope we can find a valley or saddle somewhere to flip to another, less sterile attractor.

Myrrh
January 12, 2012 3:14 pm

phlogiston says:
January 12, 2012 at 12:57 pm
This CO2 red herring is clearly a very strong attractor – and a strange one.
This thread was about something different, something interesting – a chaotic / nonlinear paradigm for climate and glacial / interglacial states. But it got sucked into the stale old CO2 argument about nothing.
I sure hope we can find a valley or saddle somewhere to flip to another, less sterile attractor.

Why should it stop you from continuing? Personally I’m more interested in this idea coupled to the known changes between glacials and interglacials and between ice ages rather than as an argument about carbon dioxide and tipping points, since these anyway already show that CO2 never had any inclination to drive temps lagging as it does behind the real dramatic climate changes, which as Crosspatch has given, can happen extremely rapidly.
crosspatch says:
January 10, 2012 at 12:23 pm

Myrrh
January 12, 2012 3:41 pm

Although I should add a final p.s. to my reply to you, Robert Brown, re:
Oh, and if you want me to reduce all of the complexity for you and describe how the greenhouse effect works in very simple language without math, just ask. Preferrably nicely, but hey, I’m easy. It’s not complicated, not really. Roy Spencer has a good heuristic description in his book, “The Global Warming Blunder” or whatever the title is,
No thanks to Roy Spencer having anything sensible to teach me here – I read his Virginia piece that colder objects can heat warmer ones some time ago and thought what an absolute nonsense his physics, and he couldn’t see it, couldn’t see how ridiculous it was nor see that he was creating a perpetual motion machine. I’ve just been reminded about this as I was looking for the NASA information re SB for your other thread (though I thought I’d first read this Spencer piece in 2010 it says it was written in 2011):
http://johnosullivan.livejournal.com/43659.html

“It was apparent assumptions in Spencer’s “Yes, Virginia” essay that inspired Dr. Latour, who first made a name for himself working on NASA’s Apollo Space program, to publish a counter-argument to Spencer’s essay entitled, “No Virginia, Cooler Objects Cannot Make Warmer Objects Even Warmer Still.”

That’s the problem here, you have a good mind and an education which has allowed it to be exercised, however, just as in programming computers, if one puts in invalid assumptions about the physical world re properties and processes one will always get nonsense out, just as Spencer did here.

Dinostratus
January 13, 2012 7:46 pm

There’s a lot of hocus pocus in “chaos theory” and I put that in quotes for a reason. There is real chaos theory and then there misunderstandings due to analogies given to laymen who can’t understand the mathematics, i.e. “chaos theory”.
“At the heart of each loop is something called a “strange attractor”, which is typically a limit point.”
Well that’s a new one. I hadn’t heard that one before. The two point that the orbit seams attracted to are not the attractors. There is only on attractor in any chaotic system. It is the pattern that the trajectories seem to be drawn to. In the case given, it is the butterfly shape.
“There is no guarantee that the trajectories will “fill phase space”.
Um, no. If the given dimensions are high enough to bound the attractor then the trajectories WON’T fill the space. If the given dimensions are NOT high enough, then it will fill the space. This is the concept of an embedding dimension. If you have just enough dimensions, say four, such that the trajectory doesn’t fill the space then remove one dimension, the trajectory overlaps itself (exactly) but then goes off in a different direction. This means that a fractional dimension is needed to describe the trajectory, hence the word fractal. Note that you showed a fractal with an embedding dimension of 2.31, IIRC and two dimensions are not enough to describe the shape. If you had showed a 3-D plot, there would be tiny infinitesimal spaces to be found between each line.
“One final very important point — systems that oscillate almost always have negative feedback. In fact, that is the fundamental thing that defines an oscillatory system — it has attractors in it.”
No, this won’t do at all. You’re conflating negative feedback with dissipation. All systems with “attractors” have dissipation that causes them to reach a point, like zero foxes and zero rabbits in the case of the predator – prey model. The foxes dissipate the rabbits to zero and then the foxes dissipate due to a lack of rabbits.
I like this site but to make up stuff that sounds right and is pleasing to the ear but is wrong is not a good thing to do.