Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Peter Gleick speaks with forked tongue

Peter Gleick (who he?) has a piece on Science Blogs (h/t Tom Nelson) - (Mis)Understanding Sea-Level Rise (SLR) and Climate Impacts which is a neat summary of what follows that title. I won't use his first name again - it implies some degree of respect on my part, and I have no respect for this excuse for a scientist. He starts
One of the most important and threatening risks of climate change is sea-level rise (SLR). The mechanisms are well understood, and the direction of changes in sea-level is highly certain – it is rising and the rate of rise will accelerate. There remain plenty of uncertainties (i.e., a range of possible outcomes) about the timing and rate of rise that have to do with how fast we continue to put greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the responses of (especially) ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, and the sensitivity of the climate.
Gleick is a self-confessed liar and thief, and here he's lying while stealing the truth. If it's certain that the direction (he feels he has to explain to his dummy readers that sea-level rise means that the level's going up - doh!) and rate of rise will accelerate. then how is it that there are simultaneous uncertainties about the timing and scale of that rise? He's saying here that the rate of rise depends on all the big climate uncertainties. He's right of course, but they're the big climate uncertainties, which means no-one actually knows what will happen, and over what precise timescale, least of all Gleick.

How soon before he mentions "superstorm Sandy"? All bets are off - straight away. The only thing that's predictable in this world today is the storyline of so-called climate "experts".
Even little changes can have big consequences. As we saw with Superstorm Sandy, where extremely severe weather was combined with a very high tide, on top of sea levels that have risen six to nine inches over the past century, even a little bit of sea-level rise around the world has the potential to cause hundreds of billions of dollars of damages and the displacement of millions of people.
The "little bit of sea-level rise" didn't cause "hundreds of billions of dollars of damages and the displacement of millions of people" - the storm surge did. Does anyone (including Gleick) really think that it was the "six to nine inches" that caused all the damage? There are a few things that he needs to get his head around, and it's a big head, so in theory he should have no difficulty. Sandy hit the shore at the time of a spring tide. These higher-than-normal tides occur twice a month, when the Earth, Sun and Moon are aligned, with the higher tide when there's a new Moon - the Sun and Moon are close together in the sky, and their combined pull on the oceans is maximised. luckily Sandy didn't strike at high tide, so the coast was spared the worst. When the surge and the tidal factors are taken into account, the "six to nine inches" matters hardly at all. He knows that, and if he doesn't know it, he's as confused mentally as when he created his fake email accounts. He drones on
The Pacific Institute, among many other organizations, has been working to understand and evaluate the nature of the threat of sea-level rise and the risks posed to coastal populations, property, and ecosystems. In 1990, a colleague and I published the first detailed mapping and economic assessment of the risks of sea-level rise to the San Francisco Bay Area, looking at populations at risk, the value of property in new flood zones, and the costs of building some kinds of coastal protection (“adaptation”) to protect higher valued assets. That early report can be found here.
Sea-level along the Pacific coast isn't rising, it hasn't risen appreciably anywhere in the last thirty years, and it's generally falling at the moment. See my posts here, here, here, here, and more recently (2 days ago)  here. Gleick isn't a sea-level expert, he's a hydrologist, and neither was or is his colleague and co-author Edwin P. Maurer, who's an Associate Professor of Civil Engineering, and who says of his work
My research is directed at a variety of topics, related to large scale modeling of land surface processes. This includes investigations into forecasting and predictability, and effects of changes in land use and climate on the hydrologic response of regions.
Land surface processes - nuff said? Then follows a lot of waffle about misunderstanding simple terms and trends and risks. I like the first one however, which shows that sometimes there's a disconnect between his brain and his fingers (or vice-versa)
Misunderstanding #1: Predication versus Scenario. There is a big difference between a prediction and a scenario. Scenarios are tools for examining how changes in some kind of conditions (such as greenhouse gas concentrations) might affect something else (such as climatic conditions or sea-level). They are stories of possible futures based on a range of assumptions. Almost all studies of climate impacts evaluate scenarios to examine possible future conditions, risks, and threats.
There's a big difference between predication and prediction too. He's right about one thing - scenarios are stories in that they're science fiction. To frame a scenario, reasonably likely outcomes are needed, but he said himself, that
"There remain plenty of uncertainties (i.e., a range of possible outcomes)" and that scenarios are based on not just a set, but a range of assumptions. Some climate models predict project a cooling future. All models produce different results on each run, and so the individual runs have to be averaged for each. The various models also vary widely in those averaged results.

The final depiction of the results is a chart which looks like a spreading bunch of twigs. Then assumptions have to be made about the results, and a range of further assumptions made to produce a whole range of scenarios. Which of those scenarios are then chosen? You already knew the answer, as I do. It's a classic example of confirmation bias, choosing the results wanted while ignoring everything else.

There's only one valid prediction, and that's whatever happens won't have been predicted by models. Some runs by a few models may get close, but those runs will be lost in the averaging process, and the resulting averages rejected if they don't match the confirmation bias. Then, some time in the future, when the models are seen to have been wildly wrong, the Gleicks and the Manns and the Trenberths and the Schmidts will pop out of the woodwork, and assure us that we misunderstood what they'd been saying, that the models really got it right all along, and produce some smoothed-out piece of discarded printout from their waste-baskets to prove it. Wait a minute - they've been busy doing that to explain why the "warmer winters" turned into colder winters, and exactly why there's been a stasis in global temperature while they were busy telling us "warming is accelerating". They knew it might happen all along, but just didn't mention it.

No comments:

Post a Comment