Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Climate Models and Modeling

I was asked this weekend why I didn't comment on the Keenlyside paper that Nature published last week, "Advancing decadal-scale climate prediction in the North Atlantic sector " that predicted temperatures may decrease.

Short answer: I couldn't care less.

In our March 11 post "Modeling*: The Map is Not the Territory" we had a couple quotes:

The map is not the territory
-Alfred Korzybski

Models are always wrong, sometimes useful
-Eric Falkenstein

Korzybski was talking about language and Falkenstein about financial models but the words apply to climate models as well.

The interesting thing about models is that they tell you as much about the modeler's biases and assumptions as they do about the real world.

Some are way cool. Here's the Glatzmaier-Roberts computer model of the earth's magnetic field.
The story told on NOVA's episode "Magnetic Storm" of how many runs of the model it took to get a pole reversal was a testament to one scientist's staying power. Plus it's interesting to watch.

If you want to get some insight into modelers, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has had an ongoing roundtable called "The uncertainty in climate modeling":

Climate prediction works well for some variables and poorly for others
Climate modeling is still an abstraction of reality
Tacit knowledge gets lost in translation with climate modeling
And five more.

Another interesting mind looking at this stuff is Jerome Schmitt in "Numerical Models, Integrated Circuits and Global Warming Theory" that we linked to in "Modeling*..."

Personally, I think the recent flip of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation* to it's cold phase, the first phase change since it went to the warm phase in 1976, will have more impact on what I care about, food, than the stuff in the Nature paper. Speaking of food, I'm going to grab some breakfast.

Hat Tip to ADAMANT on the BotAS roundtable. Russel Seitz is always good for a reality check.
Here's Nature's blog on Keenlyside.

Here are our our PDO posts-

Climate Change and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation

Um, folks, um, maybe we should start thinking about rebuilding our grain reserves.