IPCC Climate Science As A Gestalt Theory Problem

Guest opinion: Dr. Tim Ball

The proverb that “they can’t see the forest for the trees” means, they are so consumed with detail, they don’t understand the larger situation. This is true of society in general and climatology in particular. One book that at least addresses part of the problem as it relates to climate, is Essex and McKitrick’s Taken By Storm, in the chapter titled, “Climate Theory Versus Models and Metaphors”. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has exacerbated, amplified and exploited the problem because they are about politics, not science.

Shortly after appointment to Chair of the newly formed Assiniboine River Management Advisory Board (ARMAB), I called a meeting at the Fort Garry Hotel in Winnipeg. I invited people from Federal, Provincial and Municipal governments involved with as many aspects of the river basin as possible. It was amazing, in a Province of 1.2 million people, how few knew or communicated with each other. I knew communication between different levels of governments is bad, but was shocked to find, it was as bad within the same level of government. Worse, many didn’t know their part in affecting the interaction between the natural dynamics of the river basin and human activities.

People introduced themselves and explained why they were present. Some didn’t know. The Department of Highways representative said his department had nothing to do with water. I asked him if he knew that, a) they built and maintained drainage ditches on each side of a road, b) that some ditches are larger in flow capacity than many rivers and streams in the basin and, c) a majority cut across the natural drainage slope of the region? Of course, none knew the climate history of the basin. Some knew I had done climate studies, but nobody had ever consulted me or looked at the material.

Over my career I’ve given evidence at trials, advised lawyers in court cases, served on dozens of commissions of inquiry and participated in numerous government and private studies on a variety of issues related to climate, water resources, and environmental issues. Almost without exception the conclusions were,

· Data was inadequate to reach meaningful conclusions,

· Most people were only minimally doing their job and few knew the context of their work,

· Every rule was being bent, broken or ignored, which speaks to the paradox that rules are made to make things work, but when a group says they are going to work to rule, it means they are going to stop it working.

· Previous recommendations for change were ignored. On my first commission looking at conflict over a lake, I discovered recommendations of three previous commissions were never enacted. There was also a letter sent to Ottawa in the 1880s by an engineer in the region, identifying the problems and offering solutions. I also knew that fur trader and explorer Alexander Mackenzie had commented on the problems 200 years earlier. All were ignored.

· Usually, responses were so slow that if they came at all, a new pattern had emerged that was aggravated by the actions. The history of the Assiniboine drainage basin was a pattern of reactions driven by the wet and dry cycle of the Prairies. With wet cycles demands for drainage forced some reaction. By the time it started, a dry cycle drove demands for retention and storage.

It appears life is, as Shakespeare’s play title says, “a comedy of errors”. However, every once in a while, it randomly becomes a tragedy of errors.

Gestalt Theory

Gestalt theory says that the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. It is part of learning theory.

Gestalt theory applies to all aspects of human learning, although it applies most directly to perception and problem-solving.

According to Gestalt experts, the principles to apply are as follows.

1. The learner should be encouraged to discover the underlying nature of a topic or problem (i.e., the relationship among the elements).

2. Gaps, incongruities, or disturbances are an important stimulus for learning

3. Instruction should be based upon the laws of organization: proximity, closure, similarity and simplicity.

It has application to climatology, and today’s analysis and understanding of the world and how it works. Chances of success are, at best, seriously hampered by the problem of specialization. Accurate identification and integration of each specialized piece, is essential to understanding. Specialization guarantees you will not see the forest for the trees. Different languages, definition of terms and perspectives exacerbate this problem. The introductory course in any subject at any university, is where the separation begins. These usually leave fundamental differences and divisions unexplained, yet, they seriously affect and limit understanding.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) fails for many reasons, but, not least, is the problem of specialization. In fact, they have a much larger problem because there are crossovers and similarities within the specializations that are markedly different between the sciences. This is demonstrated in their Working Group I (WGI) The Physical Science Basis Report and those in Social Science Reports of Working Groups II and II. Then, they run into serious problems when they tried to integrate political and economic models. Integrating them with economic and social scenarios of WG II and III and calling them projections, supposedly masked failures of the scientific predictions of WGI. This goes a long way to explaining why a few people with a political objective were able to create the unrepresentative, unreal, Summary for Policymakers (SPM).

The IPCC created an intellectual and philosophical Tower of Babel that has only temporarily served the political objective. It limited the possibility that anyone would put two and two together and realize their answer was five. Like another famous tower, it is leaning and ready to fall.

Specializations In Climate

Figure 1 is a simple systems diagram of weather components and illustrates the challenge.


Figure 1: Source: After; Climate Stabilization: For Better or for Worse? William W. Kellogg and Stephen H. Schneider, Science, Volume 186, December 27, 1974

An important question from a Gestalt perspective is, how many specializations are represented? I used the diagram as a prompt, while explaining to a lawyer the difference between climate science and climatology. The former, are individual specialists who happen to study climate. The latter, must integrate every part. The problem and challenge is underscored by the need to create integrative or interdisciplinary studies for real world problems.

As a climatologist, trying to put all the pieces in the puzzle, I have always known it was necessary to consult with specialists. For example, when using statistics, I relied on Alex Basilevsky, whose biography lists climate studies. He was especially interested in Markov probabilities. This failure to consult specialists was identified by the Wegman Report as a serious failure of the paleeoclimate group associated with the “hockey stick” fiasco. In a devastating finding they wrote,

It is important to note the isolation of the paleoclimate community; even though they rely heavily on statistical methods they do not seem to be interacting with the statistical community. Additionally, we judge that the sharing of research materials, data and results was haphazardly and grudgingly done. In this case we judge that there was too much reliance on peer review, which was not necessarily independent. Moreover, the work has been sufficiently politicized that this community can hardly reassess their public positions without losing credibility.

The challenge, when dealing with specialists, is to know enough to ask the right questions and understand the answers. This worked well in many cases, but often created more problems, because I received different answers from people in the same specialization.

The last sentence by Wegman seems to imply that they didn’t consult because they knew their work would not withstand scrutiny. That proved to be the case, when Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitirck looked at what was going on. However, there is another issue of differences between specialists. Consider the following communications between two, well-informed global warming skeptics. Willliam Kininmonth, former head of Australia’s National Climate Centre at the Bureau of Meteorology and author of, “Climate Change, A Natural Hazard” wrote:

I have difficulty in understanding the reluctance of some to embrace modern radiation transfer theory. The first validations were made in the 1940s and 1950s with aircraft and balloon borne instruments measuring radiation fluxes at various altitudes through the atmosphere. Then there were instruments released from rockets taking measurements as they descended through the atmosphere. As computing power developed the algorithms for evaluation became more complex. As instrumentation developed the fine structure of wavebands were better measured. My point is that radiation transfer theory is not a theory that was formulated 60-80 years ago and has not changed. It has evolved to incorporate more complexities as computing capability and instrument observing precision have improved. It will continue to improve but the fundamental theoretical base and broad conclusions remain valid.

The reply by Arthur Rorsch, whose views are well detailed in an article titled “Pseudoscientific elements in climate change research,” replied

The origin of the reluctance is this. The laws have been deduced for radiation processes with a blackbody covered cavity. I think my colleague Ponec sent you already his short treatise on it with the interesting comment that there has been developed other views on the application of the laws in Nature which seem not to be noticed by the atmospheric sciences.

Another part of the discourse cited above is in reference to the latest publication by Ferenc Miskolczi. As one skeptic wrote,

We still have a long way to go in understanding the world and its climate.  Miskolczi is analysing a different set of data, a different approach to atmospheric science, not that of a meteorologist.

My experience is that you get different responses, depending on whom you ask and how they apply the physics. For example, engineers usually have a different understanding than others. They claim it is because their physics has to work. To be trite, it is a variation on the joke that an optimist says the glass is half full, the pessimist that it is half empty, and the engineer that it is badly designed.


This appears to speak directly to my point about the Gestalt Theory as it applies to climate research.

So the questions remain. Which physicist is correct? Why do they disagree? Why does the climate sensitivity number keep decreasing? Is it because the science isn’t settled, or that they all look at pieces of the climate puzzle differently?

Gestalt applies, if for no other reason than, the sum of the climate parts are greater than the whole and the IPCC keeps digging. A good example of the Gestalt problem is, that the UK Court ruling on Al Gore’s movie insisted the government provide handbooks for teachers to use before showing it in the classroom. The Department of Education had to produce different handbooks for the science, social science and civics teachers.

Understanding weather and climate is a major example of the difficulties identified in the Gestalt Theory. The problem will continue as long as the IPCC exists, because it was designed to look at individual trees while ignoring the natural forest, and then only a man-planted forest.


51 thoughts on “IPCC Climate Science As A Gestalt Theory Problem

  1. How to make a huge management chain out of selling orange juice on the street corner.
    Solar energy is absorbed into latent heat. Its basically max’ed out and no way can more be taken from it. The rest is weather.
    Can’t make a living out of my statement can they 😀

    • Wow Andyj, that is about the most succinct way it can be put. “Solar is absorbed as latent heat and max’d out.” That just about says it all.

  2. Hi Anthony, I’m not sure if it’s my browser or settings but this new format with screen wide text over different coloured blocks is not working. It looks like a beginners web page effort from the 90s.
    It’s probably my settings but seriously it’s horrible and almost unreadable if it’s not on my end.

    • It is most likely on your end: I’m guessing you are using Internet Explorer which displays web pages poorly at best.
      You might want to try a different browser.

    • David
      You might want to do a screen capture and email or snailmail the image to Anthony. It’ll be a lot easier for him or anyone else not experiencing the problem to figure out what is wrong if they can see how things are rendered on your computer. Unfortunately, I’ve long since forgotten exactly how to do a screen capture in Windows — Alt-PrintScreen or something like that if they haven’t “improved” it to someplace else. It’d probably also help to know exactly what OS version and browser you are using.

  3. Headline says Gestalt, writing lacks it.
    Review and separate out each paragraph into three paragraphs “old school style” – Like you want to pass the class.

  4. Thank you for the systems diagram.
    Now, let’s create a quantitative climate model where all its parameter values (e.g. temperatures, pressures, radiation, humidity, cloudiness, ice cover from the bottom of the oceans to the top of athmosphere) match exactly with precisice observations. This must of course happen in all timescales and all numbers match simulaneously.

  5. Years ago psychology was a hobby of mine. Gestalt theory was having its cognitive science heyday. I was using the library of a certain famous eastern university (this was before they banned the hoi polloi like me). There was a blackboard there as you entered the psychology library and as I left I sometimes paused and wrote witty comments on the useless drivel i had just been reading.
    That the whole was greater than the sum of the parts was sort of the collective mantra of the cognitive psychologists of those long ago (now mis-remembered) times — believed to be undeniably true.
    i first wrote on the blackboard — a committee is proof that the whole can be less than the sum of its parts.
    Next day I wrote that if you bought a set of furniture the price of the whole was less than the sum of the prices for the individual pieces.
    I came up with a few more that i can no longer remember.
    The way Dr. Ball is using gestalt is different in meaning than what the cognitive psychologists of those distant times implied it meant. (Among other things it was considered a refute of Skinner.) Dr. Ball simply says you should try to collect all the pieces of the puzzle before you try to put it together. I am in perfect agreement with Dr. Ball.
    Eugene WR Gallun

    • Gestalt psychology

      The original famous phrase of Gestalt psychologist Kurt Koffka, “The whole is other than the sum of the parts” is often incorrectly translated [1] as “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” and thus used when explaining gestalt theory, and further incorrectly applied to systems theory.[2] Koffka did not like the translation. He firmly corrected students who substituted “greater” for “other”, “This is not a principle of addition” he said.[3] The whole has an independent existence.

      • Oddly this precisely the implication of “it’s just weather,” when someone tries to diffentiate climate from weather whenever we see a spate of unusual weather (warm OR cold). Climate is other than weather, but is it?

    • Dr. Ball simply says you should try to collect all the pieces of the puzzle before you try to put it together.

      Failing to do so will cost you lots of time and the end product will still have missing pieces!

    • Eugene W R Gallum
      Frankly, your counter-examples are a little trite. A committee can be/is a great deal more than the sum of the individuals who compose it.
      Take for example the IPCC (O please take it!). How many of its individual members are being carried away by groupthink right now? How many of them may disagree, yet be afraid, knowing as they do that only outer darkness awaits them when they do?
      Same for furniture. I know people who would chuck out a perfectly good sofa if it lacks either matching chair.
      The Whole does indeed have an independent existence, and Gestalt was not wrong in this. It’s unfashionable rather – the fate of all research which is driven by crazes, as social science and CAGW both are.

      • Your rcounter-counter-example is quite trite.
        “A committee can be/is a great deal more than the sum of the individuals who compose it.”
        You covered your bases well with , which almost always evaluates to true. That’s how the climastrologists get away with everything. Did Eugene W R Gallum do something to your corn flakes?

  6. I am often amazed at just how easy it is, on blog forums, for someone like myself to run rings around scientists arguing the case for AGW. It always goes the same way. They will end up zooming in on some specific application of an equation or hypothesis and I will expand on their idea to apply it in a macro setting outside of the limited parameters they had considered it which usually ends up defying credibility and common sense!

    • That is my experience too. But I wonder why it happens? My thought is that the medium is the message.
      Expanding the narrow scope of the precise claim is “similar” to thread-jacking and going off topic. It isn’t – it’s testing the idea to absurdity. But it looks the same.
      And on blog posts such actions are permitted to be deleted. This avoids the argument.
      And it allows a comforting security for the scientist as they can keep the argument where they can avoid debate.

      • They keep telling me focus on the big picture, all the way back to, but not including, the Little Ice Age.

    • We can all chuckle at the failure of the “experts” who can’t even properly execute the ideal gas laws equations in the whole Deflategate travesty.

  7. Dr. Ball – love your work, love your style. This astute article is worthy of sharing with the hardcore believers. My elder brother, a bioligist and computer programmer is first on my list. Thank you.

  8. Thank you Dr. Ball. Your discussion should be enlightening to many people about complex systems and interdisciplinary teams that grow topsy-turvey. for another example supporting your statements, I will briefly describe a large project I was involved in the 1980s and 90s.
    Or task was to build a new and national method of predicting soil erosion on upland areas. For instance farm fields, rangeland pastures, etc. tied to climatic and land use practices across the USA, lower 48.
    I quickly found that climatic regions and land use dominated the scientific specialties dealing in soil erosion. In the upper Midwest it was soil scientists, cropping management specialists, and a most useful tool was crop residue management to enhance infiltration and thus reduce runoff which causes soil erosion as it provided ground cover to protect the soil surface. Much beyond that was wasting time.
    In the South it was again soil scientist and engineers dealing with controlling stream erosion and sediment transport and stream buffering systems employing dense sod grass to keep sediment out of streams. Residue management did not receive as much research or application because in the hotter and rainier climate biological activities soon caused the plant residue on the surface to disappear. Much beyond that was wasting time.
    In the West (except in forest land and high mountain areas) it was engineers dealing with irrigation systems controlling delivery of precious water and topographic modifications for irrigation efficiency and erosion. On rangelands it was range scientists for grazing management systems to provide good grazing for livestock and prevention of soil erosion. Not much else mattered. On forest lands, it was forest management practices with engineers concerned about erosion from road building and ecologists working to keep sediment out of streams and rivers to protect fish and habitat. Again, not much mattered.
    My job was to bring these groups together to work on a national scale and devise erosion prevention/reduction methods tailored to the different agriculture practiced across the US. My hardest task was to get these scientists, engineers, and those funding the project to understand each other and that soil erosion was caused, and controlled, by different processes and practices across the nation. Soil scientists would argue with foresters, engineers, range scientists, hydrologists, and climatologists that it was the soil, stupid! Hydrologists, that it was the precipitation and runoff, stupid! And so on for all those who were limited by their disciplines and regional biases.
    What you say is true for large projects covering different climatic/geographic bias and disciplinary bias.
    I earned my money for a few years as I am sure you did on the projects you were involved with in your career.

    • The world average is for an increase of between 2.6 degrees celsius and 4.8 degrees celsius.

      Oops… that’s not happening though is it? Flatline for 2 decades. Don’t ya just hate it when data trumps a perfectly good model, or 40..

    • The scenes and tweets (twits?) from Australia are absolutely amazing.
      These events happened when the rest of the world was experiencing beautiful sunshine (or moonshine) with nil wind.
      AMAZING!!! Absolutely unprecedented in the history of mankind!!!

  9. I have a simpler solution for the modelers: go to a library and get a book by Chandrasekhar (1954) called “Radiative Transfer”. I am certain they have never heard of it. Study it (I admit it takes time, a lot of it) and learn how you solve the transfer equations and apply that to those models. Unfortunately and contrary to what they think it’s no schoolboy physics. Pity.
    If they had done that correctly back in the 70-ties and 80-ties they would have found that CO2 is not the climate driver that they thought it was and still think it is.

    • ” they would have found that CO2 is not the climate driver that they thought it was”
      Maybe that’s not what they want to find?

    • Chandra was the master.
      A brilliant Nobel winner, that started working in a new field every decade or so, once he mastered the earlier one. Radiative transfer is one such summary of his mastery.
      When he won the Nobel, the Chicago Tribune called him to get an interview, and he declined saying he had a class. The reporter said, surely Dr. Chandrasekhar you could cancel a class upon winning the Nobel prize. He replied, no, I am not teaching a class, I am taking a class.

  10. The role of the stratospheric polar vortex in solar activity and cosmic ray effects on the lower atmosphere circulation
    Svetlana Veretenenko
    Maxim Ogurtsov
    ABSTRACT Possible reasons for a temporal instability of long-term effects of
    solar activity (SA) and galactic cosmic ray (GCR) variations on the
    lower atmosphere circulation were studied. It was shown that the
    detected earlier ˜60-year oscillations of the amplitude and sign
    of SA/GCR effects on the troposphere pressure at high and middle
    latitudes (Veretenenko and Ogurtsov, 2012) were closely related to the
    state of a cyclonic vortex forming in the polar stratosphere. An
    intensity of the vortex was found to reveal a roughly 60-year
    periodicity affecting the evolution of the large-scale atmospheric
    circulation and, then, the character of SA/GCR effects. An
    intensification of polar anticyclones and mid-latitudinal cyclones
    associated with an increase of GCR fluxes at minima of the 11-year solar
    cycles is observed in the epochs of a strong polar vortex. In the epochs
    of a weak polar vortex SA/GCR effects on the development of baric
    systems at middle and high latitudes were found to change the sign. The
    results obtained provide evidence that the mechanism of solar activity
    and cosmic ray influences on the lower atmosphere circulation involves
    changes in the evolution of the stratospheric polar vortex. Veretenenko
    S.V., Ogurtsov M.G. Regional and temporal variability of solar activity
    and galactic cosmic ray effects on the lower atmosphere circulation.

    • Ren, The vortex phenomenon and the way in which it relates to the annular modes which are the manifestation of climate change in action both in the short and long term is explored here :https://climatechange1.wordpress.com/.
      and in the work of DWJ Thompson, JM Wallace
      The riddle of how climate at the surface of the planet is driven by solar processes that affect the polar vortexes is very close to being a riddle no more. The answer is a simple one. It is the variation in cloud cover that accounts for the warming and cooling at the surface. The notion that ozone is confined to the stratosphere is nonsense. In fact the atmosphere between the mid latitudes and the poles is just ‘different’ Our notions of what is ‘stratosphere’ and what is ‘troposphere’ has been holding back our understanding of how ozone, that is plainly responsible for the temperature reversal that creates the stratosphere operates in the troposphere as the agent for change in cloud cover. Ozone is an absorber of long wave infra-red emanating from the Earth itself. Introduce ozone at any elevation in the atmosphere and you change temperature and with it, relative humidity and the amount of moisture that is in the condensed form. Cloud that is in the form of ice is highly reflective.
      Currently people are struggling with the notion that the stratosphere and the troposphere at the poles are somehow ‘coupled’, especially in winter. This is holding back progress. We should start with a fundamental reappraisal of the nature of the atmosphere between the mid latitudes and the poles.
      I reckon Tim Balls comments are apt. To see what is happening you need to stand back and look at the forest.

  11. We might all agree that a specific tree exists. But until we learned about forest ecology, one could reasonably say that “forest” does not exist in nature but only in the mind. So now when we talk about a forest, what we mean is not merely a collection of plants but the plants plus their relationships with each other, the gestalt.
    The really great thing we have in climatology a better sense of the gestalt that we did not have before such greats as Wladimir Köppen and H. H. Lamb.
    Too bad climatology is not taught that way. Even if you study Earth science at graduate level you still have to work hard to see the gestalt.

  12. With each passing week, month, year and decade where global warming trends fall below what is necessary to confirm the CAGW hypothesis, the probability increases that the CAGW is a disconfirmed hypothesis.
    To work around this reality, CAGW advocates have “adjusted” the empirical data to keep the “homogenized” temps within 2 standard deviations of the CMIP5 model ensemble mean. Even with all these pathetic manipulations, reality falling 2 SDs of CAGW projections.
    To get around this reality, CAGW advocates create future “tipping points” with contrived certainty that things will become “catastrophic” by: 2030… or maybe by 2050… or perhaps by 2075… or certainly by 2100…
    I’m not so sure it is a question of “not seeing the forest through the trees”, but rather the CAGW advocates not liking the dark corner of the forest they put themselves in…
    In about 5 years, there will have been almost a quarter of a century without a global warming trend, and global temps will likely be close to 3 SDs outside of CAGW temp predictions At that point of singularity, scientists outside of climatology will be obligated to blow the whistle, lest science in general be discredited.
    The CAGW hypothesis is a house of cards waiting to be blown over.

    • SAMURAI January 27, 2015 at 12:19 am
      “…the probability increases that the CAGW is a disconfirmed hypothesis.”

      Since a hypotheses can be falsified and not confirmed, I like the term “disconfimed hypotheses.” If nothing else my vocabulary has been expanded reading many of these comments.

    • Very good post. However the prediction you make is pot calling kettle a darker shade of grey. CAGW wheels are extremely large and interconnected. Large interconnected wheels turn very slowly. I don’t see an end to this debacle in my lifetime, but that is yet another prediction. Or more a gut feel. I would guess we may be 35 years into a 60 year cycle of human tree-monitoring. Maybe by 2040 we will begin to see the forest. So now my shade of grey is almost as dark as the pot! It’s fun making predictions so far out though. Well, more fun if it’s all “government” funded. Meanwhile, I hope that the cards may collapse post haste.

      • Mike Jowsey– There are certain statistical rules science is obligated to follow if it is to be taken seriously. Perhaps the most important one is when hypothetical projections exceed reality by 2 SDs for a statistically significant period.
        Already CAGW projections are on the cusp of being 2 SDs off from reality with no statistically significant warming in almost 18.5 years. A case could be made that n=222 is still too small of a universe to conclude CAGW disconfirmation with 95% confidence, but when there are 25 years of no global warming trend or perhaps even a falling trend, even the staunchest supporter of CAGW will have to be resigned to the fact they got the math seriously wrong; it becomes statistically untenable at some point.
        From a political perspective, once politicians feel CAGW advocacy is a political liability, that’s when the CAGW hypothesis collapses. Already CAGW poll numbers are falling even faster than global temps. Since CAGW is a political agenda rather than a scientific truth, poll numbers trump failed political agendas. Politicians are ONLY interested in getting reelected. They couldn’t care less whether CAGW is true or not.
        “97%” of politicians wouldn’t know a standard deviation if it came up and bit them on their bum. Politicians do, however, understand very well that if 51%+ of their voting constituents don’t support a particular issue, then it’s time for them to “evolve” a new position or risk not being elected or reelected….
        Australia and Canada are the first two dominoes to fall on the CAGW issue. I think you’ll be amazed and surprised at how quickly the CAGW hypothesis will collapse once more dominoes begin to fall.
        CAGW has already become a pathetic joke. It will soon be laughed and eye-rolled into oblivion.

      • SAMURAI do you really think politicians really understand how out of whack the climatologist are, after all most of the politicians that believe in global warming also believe that Communism is a better political system the free and open Capitalism is even though Communism killed millions and pollute far more than capitalism ever did. Worst yet most politicians do not begin to understand the great evil the crony capitalism is. The heart of a free Capitalist society is that the words in a contract is more important than who sign it, in crony Capitalist society that not true and that is as bad as Communism since it has the dressing of a free society when that is not true.

  13. “Data was inadequate to reach meaningful conclusions”.
    Tim – Another excellent article. I think this sums up some very serious problems. People take local proxy data and then use it to produce global results that are supposed to be accurate to 1/100th of a degree.
    Most people applying the central limit theorem have no idea how to derive it and hence use it in situations where it does not apply.
    Other people take the official climate series as gospel and then proceed to analyse them without regard to data quality. When used in finance and economics, analysis of time series produces garbage if you do not understand how the data was created. Creating correlation matrices from time series of different lengths produces singular matrices that imply negative variances.
    BTW. Another gripe is the lack of basic empirical evidence. Do you know where I can find the absorption by sea water of electromagnetic radiation by wavelength? This would appear to be a key component of any model since two thirds of the planet is covered by oceans.
    Keep up the good work. You seem to be one of the few people asking some of the right questions.

    • The longer the wavelength, the shallower the depth is penetrates. Red is the first to go. For practical purposes virtually all the light has been absorbed by 200 meters- by direct radiative transfer to water, by absorption by chlorophyll, by absorption by particulate solids, diatoms, algae, bacteria, etc.

  14. “they can’t see the forest for the trees”.
    That always happen when unelected bureaucrats and politicians want to micro manages us common folks. By the way, have you notice how well the stock market has done with gridlock in Washington DC. Now, I’m just saying that is a correlation not an cause and effect. I wonder if I could get a million dollar government grant to study the problem.

  15. Dr Ball makes an important point about the importance of recognizing there are different approaches to climate research:
    1. The physics/chemistry/biology/geology theories of climate science
    2. The empirical rules of meteorology
    3. The computer / mathematical models of climatology
    Each must be judged by the success of their falsifiable predictions.

  16. Astrophysicist Nir Shaviv had some thoughts on the IPCC AR5 and AR4 reports:
    “… According to the AR4 report, the “likely equilibrium range of sensitivity” was 2.0 to 4.5°C per CO2 doubling. According to the newer AR5 report, it is 1.5 to 4.5°C, i.e., the likely equilibrium sensitivity is now known less accurately. But they write: “This assessment reflects improved understanding”. How ridiculous can you be?…One reason for the lack of improved understanding could be incompetence of the people in the field…I doubt however that this is the real reason. Among the thousands working in climate research, surely there are at least a few who are competent, if not more.
    I think the real reason why there is no improvement in the understanding of climate sensitivity is the following. If you have a theory which is correct, then as progressively more data comes in, the agreement becomes better. Sure, occasionally some tweaks have to be made, but overall there is an improved agreement. However, if the basic premises of a theory are wrong, then there is no improved agreement as more data is collected. In fact, it is usually the opposite that takes place, the disagreement increases. In other words, the above behavior reflects the fact that the IPCC and alike are captives of a wrong conception.”

  17. Good article. Thanks.
    Every added convenience and security added to browsers adds complexity. Display issues are not the responsibility of the content generator. We have lost control of our browsers to the Digital Restriction’s Management tyrants, and Mozilla has joined them.
    Well said in re falsifiability. Verificationism is the witch doctor’s tool, the narrative fallacy.

  18. “Figure 1 is a simple systems diagram of weather components and illustrates the challenge.”
    A “simple” diagram that shows the complexity of the components of weather and by extension, climate.
    I guess, as I look at it, the dominance of atmospheric CO2 must be in the fine print somewhere.

  19. Liked the diagram, but as I reviewed it, I failed to identify a path for sublimation of moisture. This is a major form of moisture transference from ground level snow/ice to atmospheric moisture.

  20. FTA: “…an optimist says the glass is half full, the pessimist that it is half empty, and the engineer that it is badly designed.”
    The engineer says the glass is twice as large as it needs to be.

  21. Very interesting article. By coincidence I just posted an interview with Prof. Antal Fekete, a retired mathematician, on quotient sets (equivalence classes), and in that interview we discuss, among other things that humans should be relabeled as ‘homo metaphora’ — metaphor man; that is, one of the things that makes humans unique is that humans ‘know’ (or think they know) the world around them through the use of models, analogies, etc. But serious problems arise when the ‘tyranny of the model’ takes a merciless hold, and sends people down the wrong path of investigation. One example of a tyrannical model is ‘human brain as computer.’ Clearly, ‘climate change’ is another model that is devouring peoples’ brains. For those who are interested, please see: A Conversation with Antal Fekete — Quotient Sets & Stepnumbers, at http://www.maxphoton.com/conversation-with-antal-fekete-quotient-sets-stepnumbers/

  22. at
    ‘the glass is
    half full, the pessimist that it is
    half empty, and the engineer that
    it is badly designed.’
    the glass is
    half full / the glass is half empty
    most people think
    that glass is used. fetch me a new one.
    healthy reaction in times of ebola, HIV and rising allergical endemics.
    So die Lage. Hans

  23. Dr Tim,
    Thankyou for this.
    It needs saying again and again that attention to detail (e.g. consider every word definition in context) and clearly remembered basic principles (e.g. statistics theory is based on independent events & raw random data in order to give you somewhere to look at experientially) are essential when describing anything about complex systems.
    We in the computer industry still see failed projects after 40 years of the industry wondering why projects fail. Every review comes with “communication”, “no overall vision” etc.. Low-level technical coders complain that their project leaders take no notice of their concerns, etc. I enjoyed all that interpretation and actually managing to get the project managers escalate issues!

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