Guest essay by Mike Jonas
/Continued from Part 2
6. The Awful Process
6.1 Paradigm Shift
In Part 1, I referred to the truly awful process by which science currently operates.
Science is supposed to be self-correcting, and Karl Popper described the process by which this should be achieved: empirical falsification. Every hypothesis has to be falsifiable, and every hypothesis can and should be tested in every way possible.
The way that science actually works was later described by Thomas Kuhn: paradigm shift. Once a scientific pattern (paradigm) is generally accepted, it stays in place until a new paradigm replaces it.
Provided science is conducted honestly, it will progress reasonably smoothly, with all paradigms open to proper testing. Unfortunately, a culture of gate-keeping has prevailed within science for a long time, whereby a current paradigm is tenaciously defended in the face of contrary evidence until its defenders’ position becomes politically untenable. One of the techniques is to abuse the peer-review process in order to prevent contradictory papers from being published, hence the term ‘gate-keeper’. The gate-keepers are typically those who have staked their reputation on the paradigm that they are defending. Over time, it seems that gate-keepers have become more adept, but that may be illusory – back in the 1930s(?), Max Planck said “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” [Now paraphrased as “Science advances one funeral at a time“].
Climate science has suffered massively from gate-keeping, as revealed by Climategate. Physicist Harold Lewis, in his letter of resignation to the APS, wrote “It is of course, the global warming scam, with the (literally) trillions of dollars driving it, that has corrupted so many scientists, and has carried APS before it like a rogue wave. It is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist. Anyone who has the faintest doubt that this is so should force himself to read the ClimateGate documents, which lay it bare.  I don’t believe that any real physicist, nay scientist, can read that stuff without revulsion.”. Climategate was in 2009 and Harold Lewis’ resignation letter was written in 2010, yet the CAGW paradigm has continued to be successfully protected by the gate-keepers.
6.2 The Hot-Spot
As might be guessed from Harold Lewis’ letter, there has been a massive amount of unscientific behaviour within the climate science fraternity. Most here at WUWT will be familiar with much of it, but I will highlight one item only, because it illustrates several relevant features.
One of the persistent claims by those critical of mainstream climate science is that the lack of a Tropical Troposphere “Hot Spot” proves that the IPCC and the climate computer models are wrong. For those not familiar with the Hot Spot, it was identified in the fourth IPCC report as the principal place where man-made-CO2-driven warming originates, and from where it spreads to the rest of the globe.
Figure 3.1. From IPCC AR4 Figure 9.1. Zonal mean atmospheric temperature change from 1890 to 1999 (°C per century) as simulated by the PCM model from  (f) the sum of all forcings. Plot is from 1,000 hPa to 10 hPa (shown on left scale) and from 0 km to 30 km (shown on right).
The chart clearly shows that the tropical troposphere should warm more than the surface, and more than most of the rest of the troposphere except at the poles. In Karl Popper’s terms, that is a falsifiable prediction. If such a Hot Spot could not be found, then that should at the very least cause the whole man-made global warming hypothesis to be carefully re-evaluated, if not actually dismissed as falsified.
No-one ever found the Hot Spot. The mainstream climate scientists were understandably dismayed by the failure of the Hot Spot to appear, but instead of accepting that their hypothesis had been falsified, they carried on undeterred. And then this paper appeared – Sherwood et al (2008). After a quantity of very technical stuff, the paper contained this chart apparently showing the Hot Spot:
Figure 3.2. Chart from Sherwood et al (2008). Top row are observed temperature trends, bottom row are model hindcasts.
To a casual observer, the Hot Spot has been found, even though it is not quite as strong as the models’ hindcast, and the argument has at last been settled. But as Alec Rawls pointed out in 2010, the whole thing is a sham. If you look at the temperature scale, you will see that zero warming is coloured red. There is no Hot Spot. Jo Nova described it thus: “Sherwood changed the colour of “zero” to red to make it match the color the models were supposed to find. (Since when was red the color of no-warming? Sure you can do it, but it is deceptive.) That effort still remains one of the most egregious peer reviewed distortions of science I have ever seen.“.
This episode illustrates the following relevant features:
· Scientists can go to severe lengths to protect the current paradigm, including highly unscientific behaviour.
· Papers that support the current paradigm can pass peer-review no matter how bad they are. It would be easy to think that this paper was not truly reviewed at all (they went through the formal process, but that’s about all).
· It can take a long time to take down an established paradigm, no matter how good the contrary evidence is, and no matter how badly its proponents are shown to have behaved.
7. The Least Worst System
7.1 Democracy, anyone?
As I have illustrated above, the peer-review process is heavily flawed and open to abuse. But it might not be a good idea to blindly throw it out. After all, there might not be a better system.
In 1947, Winston Churchill famously said: “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.“. Peer-Review might be like democracy in that respect.
Open review is now possible on the internet, and I hope it proves to be valuable, but once people work out how to abuse it successfully, it may turn out to be no better.
A concerted effort is needed in the scientific community, to try to eliminate the confirmation bias in the peer-review process that protects current paradigms.
7.2 Always ask: How can that be tested?
Science needs to get back to a culture of carefully and dispassionately testing everything – and then testing it again. In other words, bringing Karl Popper’s philosophy actively back into the mainstream. For every hypothesis, for every significant statement in every paper, the question needs to be asked “How can that be tested?“.
It would be easy to think, looking at how climate science has been conducted over the last few decades, that that question has never been asked. The IPCC has taken control of climate science. Its reports are produced by an internal committee, and are not subjected to any form of independent review. Many “findings” reported in “peer-reviewed” climate papers are based on the output of computer models, so the errors in the system are self-perpetuating. It seems that the idea of impending doom from CO2 went instantly from being a hypothesis to being blindly believed.
Whenever there is any kind of dispute in science, the scientific community needs to enforce an unbiased testing regime on the issue. ie, if rigorous tests are applied to a new proposed paradigm, it needs to be ensured that the current paradigm is being subjected to equally rigorous tests. It might also be useful if anyone putting forward any new hypothesis could also present with it suggested ways of testing it.
7.3 Testing my Hypothesis
I have put forward a new hypothesis of How Climate Works. For now, and for the sake of having a name that can be used to refer to it, I’ll call it the “Sun-Cloud-Ocean” hypothesis(“SCO”). It has no more weight than any other hypotheses. As with all hypotheses, it must be tested in every way possible. But I do ask that for every test of SCO, an equally searching test should be conducted on CAGW.
Fortunately, that isn’t all that difficult to arrange: The only tests that are useful to resolve the dispute between the two hypotheses are tests that can distinguish between them. Any such test, if conducted dispassionately and honestly, effectively becomes a test of both hypotheses.
NB. I have called SCO “my” hypothesis, because I am not aware of anyone having already proposed it. I do know that many parts of it have been proposed by others, but I have not come across the whole. If this hypothesis has in fact already been proposed by someone else, then I apologise and the hypothesis is theirs not mine. But everything I have said about it, and about testing it, still stands.
7.4 How can SCO be tested?
Like other elements of climate, testing SCO poses serious problems. SCO involves a lot of factors that are unknown or unpredictable:
· We don’t know which measures of solar activity to use – sunspots, TSI, UV, GCRs, etc.
· We can’t predict solar activity.
· We can’t predict ocean oscillations.
· We don’t have long term cloud data, in fact we have little suitable reliable data about anything from before the satellite era.
· The climate system is non-linear.
· Many elements of climate operate over long timescales.
· Virtually all factors in climate interact with each other.
In fact, once we start thinking about how climate hypotheses can be tested, it becomes clear just how little we do know about climate and its drivers.
Tests might include:
· Do clouds tend to change long term trend before temperature. In SCO they do, in CAGW they don’t.
· More testing for a sun-cloud-ocean link [though it’s hard to be specific in a non-linear system where the effect is minor in the short term]. In SCO there is a link, in CAGW there isn’t.
· It might be possible to predict different heat patterns in ocean currents for SCO and CAGW respectively.
· I think that in decadal+ periods of ocean cooling (warming) in SCO the tropical troposphere would cool (warm) more slowly than the upper ocean, although it might not be by a measurable amount. In CAGW I think it would warm faster in both phases.That would be worth thinking through carefully, and could then be tested if the global temperature started a definite trend again.
· I’m sure others could think of suitable tests – there should be many possible places to look at.
8. One size fits all.
Even if SCO gets confirmed by rigorous testing, don’t fall into the ‘One size fits all’ trap of getting carried away with one solution and expecting it to apply to everything.
At present, it seems that climate scientists see everything on all time scales as caused by CO2. Don’t make the same mistake with SCO. Check every situation carefully in its own right. For example, Milankovitch cycles might not have a sun-cloud-ocean effect on climate.
– – – – –
I hope you enjoyed this series of articles. I think that everything I say is correct, but I acknowledge that reliable long term data is in scant supply, and hence it is very difficult to be sure of anything. It will be necessary to ask “How can that be tested?” of everything I say.
Mike Jonas (MA Maths Oxford UK) retired some years ago after nearly 40 years in I.T.
AMO – Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation
APS – American Physical Society
AR4 – Fourth IPCC Report
AR5 – Fifth IPCC Report
C – Centigrade or Celsius
C-C – Clausius-Clapeyron relation
CAGW – Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming
CO2 – Carbon Dioxide
ENSO – El Niño Southern Oscillation
EUV – Extreme Ultra-Violet
GCR Galactic Cosmic Ray
GHG – Greenhouse gas
IPCC – Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
IR – Infra-Red
ISCCP – International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project
ITO – Into The Ocean [Band of Wavelengths approx 200nm to 1000nm]
NCAR – (US) National Center for Atmospheric Research
nm – Nanometre
PDO – Pacific Decadal Oscillation
ppm – Parts Per Million
SCO – the Sun-Cloud-Ocean hypothesis
SW – Short Wave
THC – Thermohaline Circulation
TSI – Total Solar Irradiance
UAH – The University of Alabama in Huntsville
UV – Ultra-Violet
W/m2 or Wm-2 – Watts per Square Metre