Monthly Archives: August 2011

Insights on Climate Science, From Economics

I continue to be fascinated by parallels between climate science and economics.  In the past, I have mainly discussed how climate models have the same problems and abuses and shortcomings as macro-economic models.

I thought this post discussing Keynesian economics could easily been written about climate:

No small part of Keynes’s (and the Keynesians’s) success is due, I believe, to their dressing up in scientific jargon and garb what are, at bottom, little more than ad hoc excuses for people to follow “their first impulsive reactions.”  Keynesians’s pose as scientists – their substitution of scientism for science – masks their rejection of a genuinely scientific approach to the study of the economy.

Why Are Skeptics Piling on Irene Forecasters?

I am totally confused why a number of skeptic sites are piling on Irene forecasters who over-estimated the storm’s destructiveness.   Somehow, these sites seem to conflate alarm over Irene with alarm over global warming, and thus false Irene alarm somehow reduces the believeability of global warming forecasts.

This makes no sense.  Yes, the topics are vaguely related, but the models, the prediction process, even the people involved are totally different.  Heck, I heard Joe Bastardi, who I believe is a skeptic, right in there with everyone else last week warning the storm would be very, very dangerous.

The only element even marginally similar is the fact that there are strong incentives that might influence the forecasts.  News and weather outlets get better ratings by creating storm hype, the old joke being that the local news station has predicted ten of the last two natural disasters.  And politicians would certainly rather be caught out being too careful rather than too casual about impending storms.

Did CLOUD Just Rain on the Global Warming Parade?

Today in Forbes, I have an article bringing the layman up to speed on Henrik Svensmark and this theory of cosmic ray cloud seeding.  Since his theory helped explain some 20th century warming via natural effects rather than anthropogenic ones, he and fellow researchers have face an uphill climb even getting funding to test his hypothesis.  But today, CERN in Geneva has released study results confirming most of Svensmark’s hypothesis, though crucially, it is impossible to infer from this work how much of 20th century temperature changes can be traced to the effect (this is the same problem global warming alarmists face — CO2 greenhouse warming can be demonstrated in a lab, but its hard to figure out its actual effect in a complex climate system).

From the article:

Much of the debate revolves around the  role of the sun, and though holding opposing positions, both skeptics and alarmists have had good points in the debate.  Skeptics have argued that it is absurd to downplay the role of the sun, as it is the energy source driving the entire climate system.  Michael Mann notwithstanding, there is good evidence that unusually cold periods have been recorded in times of reduced solar activity, and that the warming of the second half of the 20th century has coincided with a series of unusually strong solar cycles.

Global warming advocates have responded, in turn, that while the sun has indeed been more active in the last half of the century, the actual percentage change in solar irradiance is tiny, and hardly seems large enough to explain measured increases in temperatures and ocean heat content.

And thus the debate stood, until a Danish scientist named Henrik Svensmark suggested something outrageous — that cosmic rays might seed cloud formation.  The implications, if true, had potentially enormous implications for the debate about natural causes of warming.

When the sun is very active, it can be thought of as pushing away cosmic rays from the Earth, reducing their incidence.  When the sun is less active, we see more cosmic rays.  This is fairly well understood.  But if Svensmark was correct, it would mean that periods of high solar output should coincide with reduced cloud formation (due to reduced cosmic race incidence), which in turn would have a warming effect on the Earth, since less sunlight would be reflected back into space before hitting the Earth.

Here was a theory, then, that would increase the theoretical impact on climate of an active sun, and better explain why solar irradiance changes might be underestimating the effect of solar output changes on climate and temperatures.

I go on to discuss the recent CERN CLOUD study and what it has apparently found.