All Blog Names are Wrong

As soon as I thought of the name for this blog, I thought I might be on to a good thing. The George Box quote from which it is taken is one I repeat in my public talks and university lectures, to make the points that:

(a) climate* scientists do not believe their models can exactly reproduce the real world; and

(b) climate models are imperfect, but they can still be useful tools to understand the planet.

* I say ‘climate’ because it is more recognisable, but I mean ‘earth system’: the whole or any individual part of the planet. For example, I currently work with glaciologists modelling the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica.

Not everyone agreed with my assessment when I asked for opinions on Twitter. I was surprised that a senior academic tried to persuade me, fairly forcefully, not to use the name.

I’ve put most of the conversation here (emphasis mine). It highlights two schools of thinking on how best to communicate climate science and partly reflects, I think, the difference between the relatively calm conversations of the UK and the polarised, antagonistic debates more common in the USA. The scientists over there are attacked and are therefore (understandably) defensive. Over we are prodded, or huffed at, in the British way, and it is easier to respond candidly.

@flimsin: Probable title of my new blog: allmodelsarewrong.com. (George Box quote). Main point of my job is estimating how wrong. Whaddya think?

Hydrologist Peter Gleick (Pacific Institute) was not keen…

@PeterGleick: @flimsin Title is serious error.Buys into “everything is uncertain” meme.And argument that politicians don’t hear about uncertainties is BS.
@PeterGleick: @flimsin Another comment on your proposed blog title. Look at this essay, especially item 2 on “uncertainty” and “knowns versus unknowns.”

In this essay, Donald Brown writes that the climate ‘disinformation campaign‘ is

a social movement that…consistently uses scientific uncertainty arguments as the basis of its opposition

I started to defend my position…

@flimsin: @PeterGleick I just think we shouldn’t attempt to hide or spin the fact that models are not reality. My research is in quantifying uncerts.
@PeterGleick: @flimsin Of course. Do you really think the climate debate is about scientists claiming models are reality? And do you not see the
@PeterGleick@flimsin intentional efforts of many to overemphasize uncertainties while ignoring certainties?
@flimsin: @PeterGleick There’s more than one debate. I want to reflect the conversations inside sci community about best ways to quantify uncert.
@flimsin@PeterGleick More of a publically-accessible blog about my own research than a blog aimed at the public.
@flimsin: @PeterGleick Of course I see it. But I also see ppl in other research areas wanting to know more about how we deal with predictive uncerts.

He pressed the point, asking what kind of people supported me:

@PeterGleick: @flimsin great idea, but title is important, and using the first half of that famous quote would, I think, be big, big, mistake.
@PeterGleick: @flimsin @ret_ward other “climate scientists” think it good idea? Most positive comments I saw weren’t from climate scientists but skeptics.

I pointed out that several climate scientists had approved, including:

@AidanFarrow: @flimsin allmodelsarewrong.com > strongly approve
@icey_mark@flimsin it sounds a great space for conversations. You’ll have to have your armour on sometimes! Good luck and thanks for engaging
@ed_hawkins@flimsin Good name! I wouldn’t pick .com though. How about .org instead?
@richardabetts: @flimsin @d_m_hg @ret_ward @Realclim8gate Yep, I really like allmodelsarewrong.com (sub-heading “…but some are more useful than others”)
@clv101@flimsin Box quote is a great starting place for a blog. Not easy topic to cover well for a broad/public/sceptic audience though. Good luck!

though one was cautious:

@d_m_hg: @flimsin The 2nd part ‘some are useful’ finishes the idea-can it be incorporated somehow? Otherwise you might attract skeptic troublemakers.

(but I do want to attract them!) and Bob Ward, policy and communications director of the London School of Economic’s Grantham Research Institute, politely suggested an alternative:

@ret_ward@flimsin Some might confuse it with allmodelsareuseless! How about howskillfularemodels? 

But this tweet from Peter was the most unexpected:

@PeterGleick: @flimsin Last comment…. not all models are wrong.

Er…pardon? This is the crux of it. How can anyone make that claim? My best guess is that to make his point he is wilfully misinterpreting the word in the way he says others will, i.e. that wrong = useless.

@flimsin: @PeterGleick Sir, it appears we have a profound philosophical disagreement 🙂 Nothing can precisely simulate reality, only approximate.
@PeterGleick: @flimsin Does that make them “wrong?” “Wrong” to you means “uncertain.” “Wrong” to public means “you don’t know what you’re talking about.”
@flimsin: @PeterGleick Exactly – all the better to explain the difference. Better to improve scientific literacy than to patronise, I think.
@PeterGleick: @flimsin But who’s the audience? The public? Policymakers? Other scientists or science communicators? It matters, as does the title.
@flimsin@PeterGleick All those welcome. 1. Publicly funded -> communicate my research. 2. Research exposure 3. Engage sceptics. 4. Practice writing.

The excellent Richard Betts of the Met Office Hadley Centre put it rather well:

@richardabetts: @PeterGleick @flimsin Which model is right? Please can I have it?
@PeterGleick: @richardabetts flimsin Richard, which model is “wrong?” Wrong is the wrong term. It’s not what you mean, and it is misunderstood by public.
@flimsin: @PeterGleick @richardabetts All are wrong…better to try and educate that science has shades of grey than try to give appearance of B&W
@PeterGleick: @flimsin @richardabetts I repeat “wrong” is the wrong term. It WILL be misunderstood and misused. Read that essay: rockblogs.psu.edu/climate/

I found this a little heavy-handed. We are all entitled to our opinion, and I didn’t enjoy being shoehorned into someone else’s vision of science communication. I think this is a very dangerous approach, as Richard pointed out:

@richardabetts@flimsin @ret_ward Be wary of advice “This might be misused by the sceptics” Start of slippery slope from objective science into advocacy.
@richardabetts: @PeterGleick @flimsin Brown says “climate denial machine … has made claims that mainstream climate scientists are corrupt or liars” (cont)
@richardabetts: @PeterGleick @flimsin IMHO only way to combat this piece of disinformation is to prove otherwise by public discussion of science warts & all

As did physicist Jonathan Jones:

@nmrqip@richardabetts Yep. Lying “to avoid being misunderstood” never ends well @PeterGleick @flimsin

One of the problems we need to overcome is a lack of trust in climate scientists by some members of the public – or even other scientists – by showing that we do science no differently from anybody else. If we start to ‘spin’ the science, to gloss over the known unknowns, then we deserve these accusations.

Anyone that wants to talk about the ways we estimate confidence in predictions of the future (or studies of the past) is very welcome to come here and discuss it, at any level. Anyone that wants to misrepresent climate science by cherry-picking snippets of sentences will do that regardless, no matter what what the blog name or content.

Conclusion: if my blog causes this much debate before I’ve written anything, I think I’ve chosen the right name…

222 comments

  1. karlos

    It’s fantastic to see a new blog, up and running debunking this ,which is the greatest scam there as ever been – Welcome !

    • Tamsin Edwards

      Hi Karlos – I think I might disappoint you… I don’t believe there’s a scam to debunk. But I am interested in getting the science right, communicating it right, and improving transparency. I assume you agree with those too 😉

  2. Bob O'H

    I’m with you – I think if we try to hide the uncertainties and problems, it’ll look like we’re trying to hide something. Let’s be honest and open. Should you get cold feet, though, you could change the blog’s name to “…but some are useful”.

    (BTW, if you know anyone who wants to move to Frankfurt to work on paleoclimate reconstruction, we’ve got a position opening soon)

  3. Sean Inglis

    Tamsin, I see you’ve solicited comments on the subject of future posts.

    My suggestion, and it’s a colossal undertaking that can’t possibly be shoe-horned into a single post, is to follow the uncertainty associated with a single datapoint from as close to the source of the data as possible (for instance, the accuracy of a single thermometer reading: 10.0C +/- 0.2C), through various stages of processing, to it’s several conclusions, showing how that uncertainty is added to, combined, carried forward, mitigated and expressed at each stage.

    It would be useful just to enumerate the character of the uncertainty at each stage in the pipeline, rather than attempting to quantify it’s effects.

    • Tamsin Edwards

      Sean, thanks.

      One place it will be easier to do is within my current work, for ice2sea, because we are doing quite an extensive set of uncertainty studies within one project. So we could track the flow of information from emissions scenario to global climate model to regional climate model to ice sheet model, perhaps also to regional sea level. We plan to look at the relative contributions of these to the final uncertainty. I realise your question is slightly different, but I think we can get the information you want from that chain.

  4. John Russell

    I’m greatly looking forward to reading your posts, Tamsin, and wish you success in your endeavour of enlightening the public.

    I think the title is adventurous and will certainly attract those in denial (I guess, your reasoning). However, as a climate communicator, aware of how superficial some can be (believe me — there are people who will read no further than the title of your blog), I would recommend putting more under the title banner at the top than ” …but some are useful.” Instead I’d suggest saying something like, “…but some are useful. Models are only ‘wrong’ because we will never be able to simulate every breath of wind, every raindrop, or every worm turning over the soil. But this does not preclude their great value as our only (?, ‘primary’?) tools to explore the broad consequences of known physical laws.” …Or something similar.

    As you will spot I’ve paraphrased this from your ‘About’ section. My thinking is that it would be very useful to let people know, immediately and repeatedly, what you actually think about models, rather than what you, superficially, appear to think.

    I hope this comment is useful. My best wishes.

    • Tamsin Edwards

      Hi John,

      Thanks for your thoughts. My tagline is already too long…

      I think climate scientists will immediately recognise the source of the name, while sceptics will be ‘lured in’ (er, cough, ‘encouraged’) and they will hopefully read the content with an open mind.

      So for now I’ll keep it as it is. I will however keep an eye on the reaction, and keep your advice in mind.

      Tamsin

  5. RealArthurDent

    A thought starter: you are being criticised for not including the complete quote in your blog title i.e the words “but some are useful” only appers in the strapline. Perhaps at an early date you might like to consider a post about the way models are used. Some scientists assume that “everyone” knows this, along the lines of “isn’t that obvious”, but when I ran a modelling group I found it was frequently necessary to tell clients about the basics. For example we construct models that are based on our current understanding of how the system works, this is unlikely to be accurate because our understanding is incomplete (the incompleteness being related to the complexity of the system we are trying to model. However even this model is useful because by comparing model predictions to the real system we can often identify where our understanding was incomplete. or in some instances completely erroneus. This then helps us to focus our research to gain better understanding and thus build an improved model. Iteration gradually leads to a more realistic model.

    One other area (goodness anyone would think this was my blog!) relates to the use of models for “prediction” vs “projection”. A model that has been extensively validated against real data and found to be robust is capable of being used to make predictions from which management decisions can be taken whereas a projection states nothing about the accuracy of the future outcome but merely states what would happen in the future assuming the modle is correct.

  6. Tamsin Edwards

    That’s great RealArthurDent! You have made a substantial contribution yourself 🙂 Seriously, that’s very helpful.

    I intend to do a post about model calibration fairly early on, very belatedly replying to
    ThinkingScientist’s questions
    (Sep 13, 2011 at 6:20 PM).

    But as you rightly point out, I would need to take a step back and explain the general principle of modelling first. Thanks again.

  7. John Russell

    Thanks for the reply, Tamsin. Yes you’re right, it’s too wordy — but it’s the principle. I also note our friend ‘karlos’ proved my point!

    You might like to know that I’ve added Prof Box’s excellent quote and a link to your site on ClimateBites. Do check it out and comment if anything needs tweaking.

    Again, best wishes.

  8. Liz Stephens

    I can slightly see where Peter Gleick is coming from, but I think that as long as you adequately cover the ‘but some are more useful than others’ bit then you will do what you set out to do. I think giving examples of where acknowledgement (quantification?) of the full range of uncertainty in model predictions could allow us to be more certain of something happening will be really interesting.

    • Tamsin Edwards

      Thanks Liz. Yes, I agree. For example, the SUPRAnet research network is encouraging the palaeoclimate community to take up physically-based forward modelling (rather than statistically-based inverse modelling), which would help to ensure they account for all uncertainties. This would give greater confidence in the reconstructions of past climates…

  9. Mydogsgotnonose

    None of the models can be correct because the physics underlying them is broken.

    1. Tyndall’s experiment was done at constant volume so because CO2 has higher CTE than air, much temperature rise was due to increased pressure. Do the experiment at constant pressure and the much lower heating is probably at the walls of the container. As the vibrational oscillation is quantised, you can’t transfer it in dribs and drabs to symmetrical N2 and O2 by collision; thermalisation is indirect.

    2. To shield upward IR by the radiometer thus removing the Prevost exchange offset then claiming ‘DLR’ is from a heat source is seriously dumb, There is no ‘back radiation, no strong positive feedback, an artefact of the modelling.

    3. Hansen’s 33 K present GHG warming includes lapse rate warming so is also dumb; reduce it to ~9 K.

    4. In 2010, experimental data showed the climate models use double real optical depth also 40% of low level clouds with bimodal droplet size distribution have different optical physics.Net AIE is slightly positive, much greater in the past and polar atmospheres. It explains present Arctic melting and much present warming, also the end of ice ages; no CO2 is needed but there could be some CO2-(A)GW. A side effect is that because data processing from albedo to optical depth is broken, you can’t trust satellite data.

    So, the IPCC models are useless. This programme has been appallingly run. It’s time the farrago was ended. CO2-AGW may well be slightly negative due to self absorption near the Earth’s surface. The proof that it is low is that the N. Atlantic is cooling as the Arctic heads to the freeze part of its 50-70 year cycle.

  10. Chris

    I look forward to reading the stuff here – although I am no scientist so I suspect it will be a few miles over my head.

    Isn’t Peter Gleick the guy who “reviews” books on Amazon without reading them ?

  11. Jack Savage

    Welcome. And do not get discouraged because some people are bound to be unkind. Best of Luck with your venture.

  12. Margaret

    Great to see you doing this blog. I look forward to reading it.
    Great first post !!! Very interesting indeed. I fully agree with your conclusion:

    “One of the problems we need to overcome is a lack of trust in climate scientists by some members of the public – or even other scientists – by showing that we do science no differently from anybody else.”

    Personally as an “unconvinced” (to use the AMS terminology) that is all that I have been wanting.

  13. Mike

    As a Bristol grad, well done and hope it’s a great success! I’m sceptical of the “catastrophic” part of AGW, but I have to say, if the debate was conducted in as honest and even-handed way as you seem to be doing i would be a lot more ready to re-evaluate my scepticism regarding impacts. I wish you all the luck.

  14. John Costigane

    Tamsin,

    Welcome to the debate. I follow Judith Curry (Climate Etc) and WUWT, both in the US, where the ‘science is NOT settled’. What is your view of the American scene?

  15. Rich

    … but some are more wrong than others. Perhaps you could consider the question, “How wrong can a model be and still be useful?” Whatever model the UK Met office used to tell me we were going to have a ‘barbecue summer’ before the county where I live had the worst floods ever was not useful. Indeed, they gave up using it for long range forecasts.

  16. Ron Manley

    Great title provided you maintain the balance between the “wrong” and “useful” aspect of models. The blog needs knowledgeable contributors who recognise that overselling CAGW does more harm than good. My suggestion, which I’ve completely failed to adhere to myself, is to try and lay out a programme and deal with one aspect at a time. Most people only look at global temperatures but models simulate many more measureable processes (I always for feel sorry for sadly neglected precipitation.)

  17. Douglas J. Keenan

    @richardabetts: @PeterGleick @flimsin Brown says “climate denial machine … has made claims that mainstream climate scientists are corrupt or liars” (cont)
    @richardabetts: @PeterGleick @flimsin IMHO only way to combat this piece of disinformation is to prove otherwise by public discussion of science warts & all

    I am one of the few people to have made formal substantiated allegations of corruption by climate scientists. I am not part of any “climate denial machine”; I am one person, unpaid.

    A detailed presentation of the evidence for the allegations is at
    http://www.informath.org/apprise/a5610/b101201.htm
    That includes many links, which allows checking the evidence. I will hereby kindly chide Richard for suggesting that the allegations constitute disinformation!

    I have always been clear, though, that the allegations should not lead to “denial” of global warming. As an example, some of the allegations were reported in a front-page story in The Guardian (the story was positive, even though The Guardian is strongly on the side of global warming). Here is a quote from one of the articles in the story: “Keenan accepts that his allegations do not on their own change the global picture”.

    (I am skeptical about global warming, but for other reasons.)

  18. Michael in Sydney

    Hi Tamsin

    I wish you all the best with your blog and look forward to following the discussions.

    I’ve been interested in climate science for many years and would describe myself as skeptical of the theory of AGW. I believe that human activities can and do affect the climate but I question the largely detrimental and catastrophic effects that are so confidently communicated by the media. What has personally dissapointed me the most has been the unwillingness of scientist/advocates who discuss the science in the public domain to acknowledge the uncertainty and the unknowns with respect to the state of knowledge. Statements such as “the debate is over” or “the science is solid” with respect to the anthropogenic attribution of recent climate change have been latched onto by policy makers who we are told get their information from scientists. These statements must go down as some the most intellectually stifiling, arrogant, condescending, polarising and oppresive points of view ever taken by policy makers who are making decision affecting every aspect of our lives.

    I look forward to hearing about the uncertainties in scientific knowledge as well as the continuing improvements in the understanding of the climatatic system and being allowed to use my own brain to decide how the debate is going.

  19. David H-G

    A fascinating first read, Tamsin. Keep them coming!

    I spend time on politically conservative US blogs (I read stuff all over the spectrum). In my experience, there are skeptics (sorry to use the US spelling, but I have good cause 🙂 who are skeptics in the true sense of the word – they are weighing the evidence that they have been presented with and making a decision based on that evidence. (By hanging out at certain blogs they aren’t really exposing themselves to the full range of the evidence, but their decision is one based on reason nonetheless).

    *Far* more common on the internet are “skeptics” in a non-evidence sense. They are not interested in evidence, they are interested in winning whatever argument their party or group has publicly identified with and evidence is only important as a tool where it can forward their efforts to win.

    I have found my engagement with the latter to be tiresome and a waste of time. As soon as my area of work becomes known the argument shuts down and switches to ad hominem attacks. Politicians like John McCain who have been Republicans for decades are viewed as traitors to be reviled because he happens to have judged that anthropogenic climate change describes the behaviour of the climate in the past 100 years
    and represent a danger worth planning for.

    This is the cause for my reservation. If you can attract genuine skeptics and bring some sanity to the debate, more power to you. If you attract quasi-skeptics you’ll just be overrun with people who want to make your life more difficult and whose self-images increase by wreaking havoc on the “enemy”.

  20. Spence_UK

    Great first article, and look forward to more. Anyone who wants more constructive discourse and less spin in this polemic topic is worth reading in my book.

    From another Bristol Uni alumni who is sceptical of many of the strong claims made by mainstream climate science community. (We’re all coming out of the woodwork now!) If you are going to be talking about modelling uncertainty, you may well give me an opportunity to jump on my favourite hobbyhorse, but I’ll try to wait for the right opportunity 🙂

  21. Green Sand

    Tamsin, may I wish you well with your venture into the world of blogs. Interesting first post seems you are going to have fun:-

    IF you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
    If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;
    If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
    Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

    Rudyard Kipling 1895

  22. Luis Dias

    Anyone who irritates Peter Gleik is worthy of attention. More seriously, I wish the blog all the best @ forwarding the discussion to a mature, adult tone and leaving the condescension, arrogant hypocrisy behind. I smell freshness and honesty.

    Godspeed.

  23. Aussie

    Tamsin, I am another “sceptic” and I welcome the opportunity that you are providing at education.

    I am goint to disagree with regard to the lack of honesty of some scientists in the field… yes, I really do think that there are some who have been dishonestly misrepresenting the climate and have helped to create the scaremongering scenarios. Clive Hamilton from Australia is one name that comes to mind when speaking of dishonesty.

    There is a saying “lies, damned lies and statistics”. Models are based upon statistics. The name of your blog is a good one, and I sincerely hope that it will be educational.

  24. Hilary Ostrov

    Welcome to the blogosphere, Tamsin! I think you’ve made an excellent choice of blogname, btw.

    That Peter Gleick (whose unshakeable belief in the existence of a mythical “denial machine” has unfortunately led him to make the mistake of “reviewing” a book he hadn’t read) and Bob Ward (another promulgator of the “denial machine” myth) are so opposed to – and/or concerned about – the name, confirms the wisdom of your choice, IMHO 🙂

    I look forward to reading – and learning from – your posts.

  25. Simon Hopkinson

    Welcome to the sphere, Tamsin. I very much support your choice of web address.

    I am becoming convinced that model uncertainties are being miscommunicated to the public often because they are not being recognised by the scientists that use them. Gleick is a good example of a scientist, who should know better (because he is, yanno, like, a scientist and stuff), believing that model data are real data.

    That a scientist could actually believe models can excrete “evidence” is horrifying, because it rather suggests that there may be a departure from the principles of the scientific method in an unknown number of areas of research. If research does not strictly adhere to those tenets, it is pseudo-science. If that gets published, it’s junk.

  26. Hank McCard

    Hi Tasmin,

    I admire your courage and wish you the best with this blogging endeavor … I look forward to reading your posts and the responses they receive.

  27. Hank McCard

    Hi Tasmin,

    I admire your courage in starting this blog … I look forward to reading your posts and the responses that you receive.

  28. Richard Betts

    In response to Douglas J. Keenan:

    Hi Doug,

    Good to see you on here!

    You won’t be surprised if I don’t make any comment on your specific formal allegations (apart from anything else I don’t think Tamsin intends her blog to be a forum for discussion of those kind of issues, and moreover it would clearly be getting into legal territory!)

    However I do see loads of comments which basically seem to promote the view that anyone in climate science in general, and the Met Office and/or IPCC in particular, is corrupt. This is wrong. We can argue about whether “disinformation” was precisely the right word, but it was a word used in the article that Peter Gleick cited in his argument against Tamsin’s choice of blog name, and I chose to replicate it in the tweet it in order to make the particular point that the aim of the blog is (as I understand it) specifically to address the some of the concerns raised in the article – just in a different way to the one Peter prefers.

    But anyway, let’s not get bogged down over one word in a tweet. Glad to see this has caught your attention, and I look forward to reading your contributions. I’m sure you’ll be keeping everyone on their toes…… 🙂

    And congrats to Tamsin on a fantastic start to the blog – I think it’s pretty clear that this is going to be a hit.

    Cheers

    Richard

  29. jorgekafkazar

    Richard Betts deserves a salute for spotting “the slippery slope” right off. Well done, Richard.

  30. James Annan

    Hi Tamsin,

    Can we have comments in the correct order please – having to scan upwards to the top of each, then read downwards, makes them almost unreadable…rss feed for comments too is nice.

  31. Anteros

    Hi Tamsin –
    I’m glad you’ve taken the plunge and I wish you well.
    Having sampled the blogospheric fare at Bishop Hill etc I guess you’re aware of the thickness of skin required in this area. And as Richard Betts will testify, it doesn’t matter how reasonable and honest you are – you are likely to receive some vitriol from both sides – quite likely at the same time…on the same topic!
    Something I think you could usefully explore is what different people mean when they say ‘sceptic’.
    I was struck by Peter Gleick making this strange distinction

    Most positive comments I saw weren’t from climate scientists but skeptics.

    But then Peter is definitely partisan and I put it down to his extreme tribalism..

    But then I saw your comment..

    I think climate scientists will immediately recognise the source of the name, while sceptics will be ‘lured in

    Which surprised me….
    So, climate scientists cannot be sceptical ?[which means you use sceptic in a very specific and restrictive way] and sceptics cannot be climate scientists – which seems a little unfair..
    The most problematic aspect of your distinction is the implication that somehow ‘sceptics’ are ranged against science itself, which would be a misrepresentation [of most sceptics]

    At the very least I think it would be great for the start of your blog to clarify what you mean by ‘sceptic’ and other tribally current terms. Getting bogged down with terminology is a risk, but as a scientist I hope you agree clarity is always advantageous!
    FWIW, there was a post at Climate Etc on Saturday [Keith Seitter..] discussing the terms ‘convinced’ and ‘unconvinced’, which I personally think are terrible, but the post has many interesting thoughts on the subject of tribal terminologies.

    All the best for your blog, and don’t be afraid of deleting the most uncivil of us 🙂

  32. dp

    Peter’s model of the public is wrong. Not surprising, as all models are wrong. Unlike many wrong models, his is not useful. I appreciate his helping validate your choice of names for you blog. Good luck with it.

  33. michael hart

    Best wishes, Tamsin,
    As a companion quote, I think Francis Crick is reported to have said: ‘A theory that agrees with all of the data is probably wrong, because some of the data will probably be wrong.’
    🙂

  34. HaroldW

    Congratulations on starting this blog, Dr. Edwards. It is welcome to have another reasoned voice in the discussions.

    However, I take issue with this statement which you made: “The scientists over there [in the U.S.] are attacked and are therefore (understandably) defensive.” While I agree that the tenor of discussions in the UK is generally less tendentious than the US, this statement presents a rather inaccurate [in my opinion] impression that American scientists were quietly going about their scientific work when they were beset by attackers. I think rather, that certain personalities, both within the scientific community and without, have chosen to create and amplify the antagonism.

    I hope that those strident voices remain subdued in this blog. We need more “honest brokers”.

  35. Roger

    In the time BC (Before Computers) we were taught that to build a (physical model) one must – fully understand the prototype (real world), prove the model agaist real world data; only use the model with the range for which it has been proven. The rot set in when: 1 economists heard about computers and started to call crystal ball gazing “modelling” and 2. Computers made endless “What if’s?” possible. Simply, there is no such thing as a “Climate Model” only audio/visual rendering of suppositions.

    • Aussie

      Hi Roger, can we make that those who are into Econometrics…. that is where the computer modelling is done 🙂

  36. lapogus

    A third vote for latest comments at foot of page, thanks. Just to add, good title, and best wishes for the blog.

    • Tamsin Edwards

      Thanks for more great comments. Agree terminology a food idea for a post.

      I’m on my phone and can’t reach the first line to correct that to good!

      John Fleck has commented on this post here.

  37. Jack Hughes

    Hi Tamsin and good luck with this.

    You seem to be view the world as “scientists” versus “skeptics”. You use the word “we” several times.

    I’m struggling to model your worldview. Is it “insiders” versus “outsiders” ?

    Do other branches of science have this same tribalism ? I there a website called “real-string-theory” backed by Fenton Communications? If I ask tough questions about quarks will someone shout “Big Oil Denier” ?

  38. Rich Goodale

    Hi Tasmin

    Great start and keep up the good work. I did a lot of modelling in my early career (mid 70’s), mostly in the area of forecasting energy demand in the residential sector of the US Economy, and I know well that most models are useful but that all of them are inherently “wrong.” The rub is how to best extract the usefulness of even the most flawed models whilst always resisting the temptation to think that “your” model is somehow impervious to imperfection. When I get the time, and when appropriate and relevant, I’ll be pleased to pass on my experiences and ideas. Until then, I’ll happily listen.

  39. John Russell

    It’s clear from some of the many comments so far that Tamsin has a lot of work to do to explain the meaning of ‘wrong’ and ‘useful’ in the context of climate models. The question occurs to me; when Prof. Box originally wrote the sentence “all models are wrong…”, did he in fact mean to write, “all models are ‘wrong’… “? But then I’m sure he didn’t realise the ‘climate’ in which his words would be scrutinised.

  40. Maurizio Morabito (omnologos)

    In any case Tamsin don’t get too wound up on what people might “think”…if I wanted to read what people thought, I would read their blogs not yours.

    No blog is a good blog unless the author presents his/her case regardless of what the audience might “think”.

  41. Ron Kahana

    Great stuff Tamsin. Amazed to see the overwhelming, almost emotional response by Peter Gleick. Well done for standing up for your point, which is so basic, so true and so important.

  42. JAmes P

    “I don’t believe there’s a scam to debunk”

    Really – not even carbon trading or Al Gore’s propaganda?
    Still, welcome to the blogosphere, and the name is perfect!

  43. Jeff Q

    Can I just say how welcome it is to see someone engaging with this topic.
    I suspect I’m like many other people with a vaguely scientific background in that I know enough about science in general to know about the scientific method, peer review etc etc but not enough to know the real science behind “Climate Change” and its related subjects. This then puts me in an impossible situation when I see “scientists” talking about “deniers” and “certainty” as, I’m afraid, it quite naturally puts my back up. I think the resignation letter from the APS that talked about being able to discuss the weight of the proton but not global warming summed it up for me.
    Be open and honest with me, don’t threaten my job or impugn my character if I happen to disagree, show me your hypotheses and how data you have support them and I, like many others, will swing right behind you.
    Fudge your maths, hide your workings out, refuse to accept changes that reflect new realities or data and generally tell me I’m being stupid for not just blindly accepting the one true faith (heliocentricity anyone?), then please excuse me if I sound, proudly, sceptical.

  44. Alex

    All the best for the blog. The name is fine; IMHO Peter Gleick is showing us a perfect example of why there is such mistrust of Climate Change science; being ‘on-message’ sometimes appears to be a higher priority then honest and open analysis.

  45. Fluminist

    Hi Tamsin,
    congratulations on a great start for your blog and a really great title!
    All those who don’t like it should bear in mind that “wrong” is not the worst epithet for a theory, there is also Wolfgang Pauli’s category “not even wrong”, and that’s the one to avoid.

  46. Ed Macfarlane

    World Says ‘Hello Tamsin’,

    Lovely choice of name – something I have used during my work in other spheres. Just hope you don’t get too many system safety engineers on here, I suspect you are going to have your hands full.

    All the best,

    Ed

  47. Pingback: Collide-a-scape » Blog Archive » Collide-a-scape >> Climate Science in the Thunderdome
  48. Oliver Browne

    Hi Tamsin,

    As I see it, the debate about the title comes down to question of what the title of a blog should confer to the reader.

    The word ‘wrong’ seems to be often associated with a polarised thinking process (it’s either wrong _or_ right). To avoid the polarisation one could of course say e.g. “No model is perfect”, but the nice thing about the polarisation is that it forces us to think about what we mean by ‘wrong’, and that in turn leads to thinking about what we want/expect from climate models. I think it would be a good way to start a thought-provoking conversation about the modelling aspects of climate science, but it requires an audience who will hear not just your opening salvo but your entire argument. Perfectly fine for an academic lecture or a book title.

    In contrast consider newspaper headlines; a balance has to be struck between accurately representing the underlying story and winning the (often time limited) attention of a reader. If I don’t have the time to read the full story I may gather a false impression – in this case perhaps I take “Scientist says Climate Models are Wrong (and thus should not be trusted!)” :).

    I’m not sure there is a “perfect model” for a blog title; just as long as the author is aware of the uncertainty in how it will be interpreted; perhaps it’s time for a new blog – allblogtitlesarewrong.com ?

    Bon chance!

    oliver

    • Tamsin Edwards

      it forces us to think about what we mean by ‘wrong’, and that in turn leads to thinking about what we want/expect from climate models.

      Thoughtful comment, thanks Oliver. I agree people may cherry-pick – but it would be far worse to do the cherry-picking ourselves for the sake of a simple message.

  49. Lazar

    I think the name is excellent. Oliver Browne makes a good point that “no model is perfect” is more logical. However, skeptic rhetorics focus on claiming models ‘are’ wrong… “all models are wrong” directly confronts and undermines those rhetorics, which is why I like it… “all models are wrong” is stronger, bolder, more of a shock to the system.

  50. Dusty

    Tamsin,

    The big problem with models is extrapolation. Those uninitiated into the black art of modelling will believe extrapolated results; they have no reason to doubt because they are being given the results by trustworthy scientists; also they don’t have sufficient understanding of the subject to doubt.

    At the very simplest level of modelling one could have a set of data and a very high level of correlation between that data and linear, logarithmic, exponential and polynomial representations of that data. If the models are used to extrapolate their solutions for a given input they will probably diverge very quickly. Which solution therefore, if any, is the correct one? Before publishing results the users of the models must understand and declare the limitations of their models; they have a responsibility to do so. Irrespective of the complexity of a model the limitations must be declared comprehensively and lucidly.

    Engineers have to jump through very many quality, verification and validation hoops before a model is declared as ‘fit for purpose’; and then its application is limited to the purpose for which it was built. Climate models appear, from what I have read, to be somewhat less constrained.

    If your new site helps to clarify the need for quality control, V&V and the limits of extrapolation it will serve a very valuable purpose.

    I wish you the very best of luck

    Dusty

  51. Bob Ward

    This opening discussion is all very interesting, but I wonder whether its is an indicator of what you are intending to achieve with this blog? I thought that you might be trying to reach out to a more general audience, but this seems to be aimed at a narrow specialist audience who are already active on similar blogs – which of course is fine as an objective.

    However, if you are aiming to widen the scope to a broader audience, perhaps even policy-makers, then I encourage you to think what such an audience really wants to find out. You might, for instance, critique the accuracy of the way in which climate models are described in the general media, perhaps starting with this article fronm last week by David Shukman on the BBC’s website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-16730834

    In particular, I was interested in this statement: “All the scenarios rely on computer models of the future climate and therefore inherently involve uncertainties.” While there clearly is model uncertainty, this seems to miss the point that the scenarios are uncertain because they are for 2080! As Niels Bohr reputedly said: “Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.”

    The point is that there has been a systematic effort to portray climate models as fundamentally unreliable for estimating future climate (as opposed to other methods such as crystal-ball-gazing, palm-reading, guessing, etc).

    One further comment. There is a danger that focusing on uncertainty in models perpetuates the myth that policy responses should be delayed until all uncertainty has been eliminated. This indeed was the tactic adopted by the tobacco industry to delay regulation of smoking, and is being employed by some ‘sceptic’ groups which are campaigning against climate change policies. But of course managing the risks of climate change, or indeed any other risk, requires decision-making despite the uncertainty. Perhaps a future post might be devoted to how to make wise decisions despite the uncertainty in climate model projections?

    • Tamsin Edwards

      Thanks for commenting Bob. My next post will need to be on scope and terminology…

      I’m hoping to have something for general audiences (guinea pigs: my friends) and specialists (e.g. academics in the same field). I will certainly be trying to avoid being too technical and scaring off people that don’t normally read about these topics – perhaps I can create tags to flag more specialist discussions.

      I agree decision-making under uncertainty is very closely related. I deal with this a bit in two forthcoming book chapters on natural hazards (Cambridge University Press), so I can add a bit of that here.

  52. BBD

    Hello Tamsin

    I’m sure this will be an endless source of fun for you and all your new friends 😉 No, but seriously: a scientific blog by an earth system scientist is most welcome.

    And do (please) blog about the demise of the CLAW hypothesis when you get the chance.

    All the best with this,

    BBD

  53. Barry Woods

    Hi Bob some good points, one or 2 not so..
    My main concerns is to try and seperate science from policy..

    As politicians do not like uncertainty, yet scientist love to explore it and we have seen how scientist can get caught up in supplying oversimplified message to politicians, ‘Hide the Decline’, etc, which is then used by politicians/lobbyists to say ‘scientists say’ to justify policy.

    Not a good feedback for science, imho.

    Perhaps you might enlighten us, who you might think these ‘sceptic groups’ are, if you think anybody here belongs to one.. And if so, could you put in a good word for me – re funding – as my overdraft is rather bad at the moment. (just joking)

  54. Rupert

    Great start Tamsin, look forward to this blog.

    I like Anteros’ comment, defining what you mean by climate scientists and sceptics and whether these ‘tribes’ can overlap would be very useful.interesting. In fact maybe this is subject for a blog post!

    Rupert

  55. Ric Locke

    Welcome to the blogosphere! You get a bookmark from this s[k|c]eptic.

    Your hope to minimize the politics will be frustrated, I fear, because the uses politicians are making of your work are integral to the formation of skeptical attitudes. Defending “scientists” who at best trim their work for political favor, and at worst suppress work and data that might not be favorable to establishing yet another piggy-bank that can be robbed to support pet political programs, will not enhance your credibility.

    Science is transparent, or it isn’t science. Showing your data and the work that arrives at your conclusions is science; obfuscating or hiding either at the best shows that you haven’t confidence in its ability to withstand criticism, and at the worst turns into a game of find-the-lady that arouses suspicion. I look forward to your definition of where you stand in the matter.

    Regards,
    Ric

  56. Perry

    Hello Tamsin and well done for stepping out. It’s a bungee ride you’ll be on. Some times you’ll be gloomy from being criticised & other times it’ll be pure elation. AAArrrGGGhhhh—-Woooooow!

    Tribalism in academia and the terminology thereof! Obfuscation is the morally objectionable method of excluding those who ask “Show me the calculations.”

    I have other interests; one is archaeology, which is almost as politically fraught as your disclipline. An example:
    “Doubts expressed regarding the meaning of negative archaeological evidence for reconstructing biblical history, especially regarding sites in the highlands.”

    That reads to me as “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”, but read the Summary at the end of eight pages of “mickle thought and sooth deep speech”.

    “As in every discipline, archaeological evidence can be fragmentary and may be misinterpreted. Yet, when solid data from well excavated sites is compared to assumptions regarding the nature of biblical texts and their date of compilation, the former should prevail, at least until tested by new archaeological evidence or extrabiblical texts.”

    http://www.arts.ualberta.ca/JHS/Articles/article_147.pdf

    A restatement of the bleedin’ obvious, innit? Correcting and integrating previous knowledge adds to our scientific understanding, but ethics and funding make strange bedfellows when copious wads of cash are riding on erroneous, but politically controlling resolutions. To mis-use an archaeological analogy “When digging a hole in the wrong place, the smart move is to stop”.

    I’ll get my coat.

  57. Martin Griffiths

    Hi Tamsin – I think the fact that the blog’s title has sparked off the exact debate you want the blog to promote is a good sign. I’ll be watching with interest.

  58. Pharos

    Wishing you the best in this diplomatic endeavour.

    I see Judith Curry wishing you well, and was reminded of her first blog post in which she described her mission thus

    ‘This blog provides a forum for the exchange of ideas about climate science and the science-policy interface. Climate Etc. is envisioned as a gathering place for climate researchers, academics and technical experts from other fields, citizen scientists, and the interested public. Open minds and critical thinking are required, and stimulating discussion and group learning is expected.’

    It worked exceedingly well for her, 626 comments on the first blog!

    Looks like your’s is off to a flying start as well.

  59. Ben B

    Hi Tamsin,

    I admire your bravery. You are doing something I have been tempted to do, but have always been too scared to actually try. I agree whole heartedly that there is largely a current absence of discussion of the details and process within climate science, in the public sphere. This is really important.

    Just reading some (albeit a tiny subset) of your comments, which seemed to insinuate ulterior motivates for climate scientist’s actions, leaves me in an emotional mess. This just illustrates to me that I don’t have the skills to do what you are setting out to do. All power to your blog writing. If I can contribute, I will try.

    Ben

    • Tamsin Edwards

      Oh, I was very pleased with the number of comments I had until you said that Pharos! Thanks though.

      Ben, thank you for that. I have to say I couldn’t have done it a year or so ago. Twitter and Bishop Hill have (a) toughened me up a bit (b) taught me to be very precise and ready to back every statement up (c) taught me not to assume anything about people’s opinions or knowledge, though I admit I forget sometimes (c) given me many friendly allies from across the spectrum of opinions. I recommend them both as places to start.

      • ikh

        Tamsin,

        Judith Curry had already been posting guest posts and been a contributor at Climate Audit for some time, before she started her own blog. It would not be fair to compare your start to Judith’s.

        /ikh

  60. Jack Cowper

    Good luck with the blog. As a sceptic I look forward to viewing some good reasoned debates – hopefully without any of the name calling.

  61. LarryT

    My feeling that any statements I have seen coming from both Peter Gleick and PSU climate science group falls into the category do not accept as truth until independent verification is done.
    Tell enough lies, distort the truth, make up data, hide contrary results, harass and intimidate will cause your reputation to be shot.

  62. Paul Matthews

    Good to see another blog run by a climate scientist. Your controversial title seems to have had the required effect of attracting a wide range of comments. Well done for annoying Peter Gleick.

    If you are going to convince grumpy old sceptics that climate scientists “do science no differently from anybody else” then you have quite a mountain to climb.
    Most ordinary scientists don’t attend conferences like “Planet under pressure” (“The conference will discuss solutions at all scales to move societies on to a sustainable pathway. “)
    Scientists don’t delete data that doesn’t fit well with the story they want to tell.
    Scientists don’t include results in their papers that they know to be flawed (emails 4207, 5027, 0539).
    Scientists who are journal editors don’t write to reviewers saying they need a strong case for rejection to support what Dave said.
    Scientists don’t try to get people who disagree with them fired.

    May all your pathways be sustainable!

  63. Theo Goodwin

    This website is extremely promising. You write:

    “All models are undoubtedly ‘wrong’, because we cannot precisely simulate every breath of wind, every raindrop, or every worm turning over the soil. But this does not preclude their usefulness as tools to explore the broad consequences of known physical laws. These abstract representations help us to make sense of our world.”

    Your words indicate that you might very well understand the actual place of models in the larger scheme of science. If so, you are the first modeler that I have encountered who possesses such an understanding or the first who is willing to admit it.

    I suggest that you make your statement a little stronger. Computer models produce simulations (and nothing else) of some phenomenon. Within climate science, computer models produce simulations of Earth’s climate. More precisely, the simulations are symbolic reproductions of those features of Earth’s climate that are taken to be salient features by climate scientists. For example, a simulation consists of a long string of numbers and each number can be taken as some magnitude assigned to some natural phenomenon.

    Simulations are symbolic formulations that attempt to reproduce climate phenomena but do not describe climate phenomena. The standards applicable to simulations have to do with the completeness of the reproduction and similar values. But the standard of truth does not apply to simulations. (The key thought is that reproduction is not description and the two play very different roles in science.)

    By contrast, well confirmed physical hypotheses describe natural regularities that are found in nature. When combined with statements describing existing observable facts, physical hypotheses can be used to predict future observable events. Well confirmed physical hypotheses can be used to explain the phenomena that they predict. (The key thought here is that physical hypotheses can be used for explanation but simulations explain nothing.)

    By contrast, computer simulations cannot be used for prediction. Computer simulations are attempts to reproduce natural phenomena and do not describe those phenomena. Thus, no computer simulation can be true or false. Computer simulations are either more or less complete as reproductions.

    Some climate scientists confuse models and theories (sets of well confirmed physical hypotheses). In their confusion, they attempt to use models as substitutes for theories. But models cannot be used for prediction. As reproductions of reality, they cannot reproduce what does not yet exist. To be useful in science, models must be guided by well confirmed physical hypotheses and cannot substitute for them.

    Why does the confusion exist? It exists because we have for generations extrapolated from lines on past graphs to lines on graphs of the future and we have called this prediction. I hope that I do not need to explain why extrapolating from lines on a graph does not meet the standards for scientific prediction.

    Please pardon the brevity of this note. I had to write it quickly.

  64. James Monk

    One thing about models is they might not give you a good prediction of what will happen, but when combined with suitable data they can very often tell you what won’t happen. The most important thing a model can do is be killed-off by data, because then you have constrained the various mechanisms encoded in that model. Killing models is how science learns – it’s much more interesting when none of the models describe the data.

    Good luck!

  65. Oakwood

    Tamsin. Great discussion.
    Peter Gleick is imploring you to be politically correct. This is exactly what Scientists should not be. Science is founded on honesty and open-minded thinking. Science and human development could not have progressed without it. Scientists disagree and debate. That’s normal. Those who try to smother debate are anti-science. So-called sceptics are not anti-science as so often claimed by the faithful warmists. We see the uncertainties. We want to discuss them. We can only believe things by going through this. To be told “I am a scientist, trust me” is simple anathema to a scientist. We need to read, think, understand, and believe. No genuine sceptic is against believing in man-made global warming provided the evidence supports it.

    • ikh

      Can I respectfully suggest that you not use the term “warmist” wTherehen you mean “Alarmist” / “Consensus”. There are very good scientists who subscribe to the warmist point of view. Judith Curry used to be proudly one of these. And yet although I am a sceptic, I still had a respect for her opinions because they were based on science and not on political spin.

      Peter Glick is part of the “Consensous” spin machine, As such, most of his arguments are not good science but are inspired but what bhe thinks a good politics.

      /ikh

  66. oeman50

    Good topic to blog on, Tamsin! I got my first introduction to climate modeling from the reasoned explanations of Dr. Bob Carter. If I remember correctly, he indicated models are useful ways to explore our knowledge of climate science, but they are not intended to be predictive. If they are being used for prediction, they are being used improperly.

    So please, shed some light on the workings, uses and limitations of models. As a practitioner of science (OK, I’m an engineer), I welcome more light and less heat.

  67. Tom Fuller

    Best of luck. Remember that not all those who defend you are your friends. Not all those that attack you are your enemies. And above all, remember that in most of the world the struggle is to make the political personal. In large parts of the United States, it’s the personal becoming political.

  68. NewYorkJ

    “better to try and educate that science has shades of grey than try to give appearance of B&W”

    Actually, that’s arguably problem with the title. To most, “wrong” is interpreted in binary ways. Wouldn’t “all models are imperfect” indicate the shades of grey more unambiguously, without a real chance for deliberate misrepresentations? Why the need to be provocative? It seems to be a cheap way to attract contrarian types, who’s purpose here seems to be to win you over to their tribe and cast Gleick as intolerant for daring to dissent.

    I do think the byline helps, however.

  69. NewYorkJ

    “Conclusion: if my blog causes this much debate before I’ve written anything, I think I’ve chosen the right name…”

    Careful with that conclusion. If you chose a title “Barack Obama is not a U.S. citizen”, or “evolution is bunk” you might generate even more discussion. Being provocative is not being right.

  70. Alexander Kendall

    Tamsin,
    More power to your elbow. You seem to have trodden on some very tender metaphorical corns so you have got the name of your blog dead right!
    I shall be reading your blog with interest from now on.

  71. Barry Woods

    A commentator (BBD) at Collide A Scape wondered why Tamsin wanted to talk to sceptics?” and sounded puzzled…

    http://www.collide-a-scape.com/2012/01/30/climate-science-in-the-thunderdome/comment-page-1/#comment-97114

    “I do wonder what TE is hoping to achieve. I err towards PG’s and your interpretation. What interests me is why she wants to talk to the sceptics. She’s kept an eye on Bishop Hill for a while, so she must know that there isn’t much revelatory scientific insight in the offing. Just lots of jabberwocky. Still, let’s see where she goes. ”

    might be a good blog article: Why I want to talk to sceptics…(… and everybody really)
    I thought your About section made thgis clear, but I think like Peter perhaps they are more concerned about ‘the cause’ or ‘political message’ than science itself.

    Then what do I know.. more chewbacca than jabberwocky though….

  72. Atomic Hairdryer

    A good start. You wanted a blog to stimulate debate and you achieved that with just the title. Bonus points for upsetting Bob and Peter. If they’d been communicating the science effectively, there would be less scepticism. But as Dr Curry’s been pointing out, communicating uncertainty and complexity is… well, complicated and simple appeals to authority can be counter productive. A lot of us work with models anyway and understand the challenges. They can be great tools to help identify areas of uncertainty and appeal for funding instead. Just think of us sceptics as the focus group from hell and if you can convince us, you can convince anybody 🙂

    as for theme tunes, my suggestion would be

    http://bit.ly/OrSKY

  73. Theo Goodwin

    To add to my comments above, climate scientists confuse modeling with generating scenarios. When climate scientists argue that anthropogenic CO2 emissions must be driving climate change because only the addition of that component to their models enables them to reproduce (sort of) the temperature changes of the last thirty years, they are not doing modeling in either a strict or a loose sense of the term; rather, they are generating scenarios.

    The Pentagon and every large corporation in the world use computer models to generate scenarios. A very clear example is the Miller Brewing Company. They have many breweries and many shipping lines at each brewery. The business is quite dynamic. To decide where to put a new automated packaging line, they will run a model that generates a simulation of their shipping patterns. To take a crude example, if the added line is found to be shipping beer from city A to city B and there is a brewery in city B, then the new packaging line will not go in city A. No one managing such a model would claim that it achieves the status of scientific prediction. The simulation generates just a scenario.

    I hope that my conclusion is obvious. There is nothing in the argument from climate scientists mentioned above that carries the weight of science.

  74. Douglas J. Keenan

    Hi Richard,

    I do see loads of comments which basically seem to promote the view that anyone in climate science in general, and the Met Office and/or IPCC in particular, is corrupt. This is wrong.

    I agree, but with some caveats.

    Research fraud is usually defined as constituting fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism. Such frauds are indeed rare, IMO. They do occur though, and there seems to be almost no accountability when they do. Such a lack of accountability raises suspicions.

    Moreover, corruption can occur without such fraud. In particular, corruption can occur when peer review rejects research that is valid, with the primary reason for rejection being that the research goes against the status quo. This occurs in many fields of science. I believe that such corruption is common, especially if the researcher is not eminent in the field. This has very serious effects.

    About the IPCC, I have argued against global-warming dissenters on this several times.

    Cheers, Doug

  75. Sashka

    An interesting start, to say the least.

    FWIW, I think the name of the blog is very appropriate. First of all, it’s a great quote, especially for those who know what it really means.“No model is perfect” doesn’t nearly do the justice to the state of climate science. That could be perceived as models having small issues but otherwise correct and reliable.

    I wish you success (however you define it) in this endeavor. My definition would be to keep signal/noise ratio to a maximum. With so many people (from both sides) working hard to muddy the waters this is a hard thing to do. I hope you’ll find a way.

  76. RealArthurDent

    A few more pebbles into your bucket:

    There are two words (at least) in the Box quote that need definition in order to create understanding. Not only the word “wrong” but also the word “useful” need definition.

    My understanding is as follows, a model can be “wrong” in a number of ways for example it can be “faulty” i.e. it can be incorrectly constructed due to unnoticed mistakes in coding, or in the mathematical equations that you thought you were using alternatively it can represent an incomplete view of the system that the model is attempting to represent. In the first case the model is effectively useless and needs to be corrected before it has any value. In the latter case it doesn’t matter how “imperfect” it is depending on the use to which you want to put it.

    Thus we also need to define “useful” in terms of “useful for what purpose”. Again my understanding is as follows: if you simply want to develop your understanding of a complex system it doesn’t matter how imperfect the model is because by comparing the model with reality we learn where our understanding is lacking and where we need to gain a better understanding to build into our improved model, this iterative process leads to better and better understanding of the system. Although not a perfect analogy, this is how particle physics develops, the current unified model requires the existence of the Higgs Boson, if that cannot be found in the current experiments at CERN then the model will have been shown to be imperfect and physicists will have to go back to the drawing board because their understanding of the system will have been shown to be inexact.

    However if we want to use the model for predictive purposes to determine future actions then we need a much lower degree of imperfection and a much better predictive skill.

  77. John Whitman

    Tamsin,

    Your blog kick off attracted a wonderful group. The discourse is likely to be lively at your blog in the future.

    “All models are wrong . . . ” and modeling is a tool, to use it for virtually every climate research task is a bias on the modelers part.

    Take care.

    John

  78. Nick Fleming

    Jolly Good Show, old girl !

    (That’s not meant to be rude or patronising, just how people of a certain age talk when they show admiration).

    Let you be a true “seeker of truth” and may you find it. Best of luck with the new venture.

  79. Richard Betts

    Hi Bob (Ward)

    There is a danger that focusing on uncertainty in models perpetuates the myth that policy responses should be delayed until all uncertainty has been eliminated.

    If we are going to have to worry about being off-message as far as one particular policy area is concerned, we’re never going to get anywhere with this scientific blog.

    Surely if the science can be discussed, challenged and found to be either right or in need of improvement, that’s a good outcome isn’t it?

    Moreover, by talking over climate modelling in an open forum here (which requires not worrying about being off-message), others from outside the field may appreciate a bit more what it’s actually about – hopefully therefore countering the misconception about the models that you mention.

    But also it’s worth noting that there are also misunderstandings about climate models in the other direction too – some people do put too much faith in them (probably because the uncertainties get overlooked by those who don’t want policy agendas to risk being compromised……) This in itself is dangerous as it risks leading to bad decisions – eg: for adaptation planning. I speak from experience as someone who leads a team who get asked to provide advice to inform climate adaptation and risk assessment, in which the first task (before even taking on the work) is very often to significantly tone down the expectations of the client / stakeholder.

    So please remember that there is more than one issue for which climate science is relevant – it’s not all about mitigation you know! Adaptation is just as important, if not more so (discuss…..)

    Also, as Doug McNeall pointed out on his own blog it’s fun!

  80. George Daddis

    Dr. Edwards, I applaud and appreciate your foray into the blog world. As a retired engineer with a trained understanding of business and statistics I have had time to vicariously follow the climate discussions over the last five years. Although now coming out on the side of the “skeptics” I feel a little guilty that I’m reinforcing my own position by drifting towards those the blogs whose audience (but not necessarily the blogger) is clearly on “anti-warmist” side. (Of course there also are the “I will go down with the ship” blogs on the other side.)
    The efforts of Dr. Curry, Hillary O, and now you, will hopefully be the voices of reason that will enable thoughtful people to make an intelligent decision, and then influence the policy makers to move in the right direction.
    Hooray for the grownups!

  81. Doug Cotton

    The warmists who developed the models just don’t understand physics.

    The most glaring mistake they make is in saying the atmosphere has warmed the surface (like a blanket) from -18C to +15C. The first figure is a theoretical temperature (call it small t) which is only related to the intensity of radiation via the S-B law which only relates to perfect blackbodies. Such blackbodies are usually other bodies in space which are perfectly insulated by space so there is no heat loss by conduction. In contrast the Earth’s surface is continually losing heat to the first millimetre of the atmosphere by diffusion (see Wikipedia “Heat Transfer” second paragraph) and also into the depths of the Earth’s crust or the oceans. So there is less energy left to radiate.

    The actual temperature (call it capital T) is a totally different entity without direction for a start. So you cannot just subtract and get T – t = 33 deg.C, because t is not a real temperature. Without carbon dioxide and its colleagues, thermal energy would still diffuse from the surface into the atmosphere, greatly reducing the radiation, as it does. In fact the net radiation from the surface is probably less than 25 W/m^2, so what value of little t would that give you? Very cold I assure you.

    This is why an IR thermometer cannot calculate temperature by measuring the intensity of the radiation and using S-B law. It can only do so by measuring the frequency and using Wien’s Displacement Law which says absolute temperature is proportional to the peak frequency.

    So, given the major fallacy in the warmists “science” when they calculated and widely promulgated that 33 degree “difference” between apples and oranges, what confidence could we possibly have in any other deductions of theirs? They are also wrong in assuming radiation from a cold atmosphere can warm an already much warmer surface.

    The atmosphere cools the Earth by reducing the amount of incident solar radiation which gets through. Hop out of a spacecraft and see how hot you feel in the sun’s rays. But radiation “temperature” is a very different thing from ambient temperature, both in space and, for example, at the top of a high mountain where the Sun’s rays might feel like 40C but the actual temperature of the air might be -15C.

    It is important to remember that a measure of radiation is a measure of energy (Watts) transferred through a unit cross section (one square metre) and it is thus a vector with both magnitude and direction, nothing like a temperature. The only “connection” with temperature can be made if a true blackbody is emitting it, and that body is not also losing thermal energy by conduction, diffusion, convection, evaporation or any other means. If it does lose energy in such ways then, at the very least, you would need much more information before making any inferences about its temperature.

    Yes, the whole Earth plus atmosphere system looks like a blackbody from outer space and some average radiating temperature could be calculated by remembering that it is a spinning sphere, not a flat disk as warmists treat it as being. But whatever temperature is calculated is merely an average temperature somewhere in the atmosphere.

  82. Mydogsgotnonose

    Here’s my contribution to the argument that ‘climate science has got its modelling very wrong. I see some who should know better are still peddling the ‘consensus’ nonsense of ‘back radiation’.

    1. It’s fundamentally wrong to assume 100% direct thermalisation of IR absorbed by GHG molecules. You can’t abstract bit by bit vibrational energy by collision adding to average kinetic energy. It’s because vibrational energy is quantised so you can only transfer it to another asymmetrical molecule or re-emit it as an IR photon. Conversion to heat will be at second phase such as cloud droplets which have gettered CO2, and bare aerosols. So, we don’t have the presumed heating in the clear atmosphere. Every atmospheric effect will be second order, mostly due to clouds, and highly non-linear.

    2. Although half IR emitted by the atmosphere will go downwards there is no mechanism by which it can be converted to heat when absorbed by the Earth’s surface. This is a fundamental part of heat transfer theory missed by Arrhenius and misapplied by every ‘climate scientist’ since. It’s apparently taught to students but every process engineer says something like ‘How could these jerks be so dumb, it’s the most basic mistake?’.

    You prove it by a thought experiment. Suddenly reduce air temperature and its total radiant energy according to S-B falls. That means less IR energy [GHG emission energy bands] is absorbed by the IR density of states of the molecules at the Earth’s surface. More unfilled states means that according to the Principle of Local Thermodynamic equilibrium, the rate of transfer of kinetic energy in the molecules in the solid to its IR density of states increases. This extra energy is then emitted as IR or re-converted to kinetic energy at the rate for the local temperature of the solid. Thus the net effect of reducing ‘back radiation’ is to increase heat transfer from the hotter body to the colder.

    Dumb followers of the ‘consensus’, have you got it yet? ‘Back radiation’ you measure by shielding the detector from upward IR is ‘Prevost Exchange Energy’ , a real energy flow but it’s the way the IR density of states in the air communicates in real time with that of the Earth’s surface.

    All it does is to modulate heat transfer. It’s cannot be converted to extra vibrational energy of the solid. Thus the Trenberth-Kiehl energy diagram of 1997 is nonsensical physics. Any professional scientist who decides to study anything associated with radiant energy transfer should know this. It appears a few in ‘climate science’ are realising the subject has been fundamentally misled but it’s taking too long for the discipline to react. I accept the imaginary high positive feedback will vanish and with it the research grants, but when I was trained in science, telling the truth was the prime imperative.

  83. John Russell

    Seems to me that some commenters are pre-judging the content and nature of this blog.

    Based on what she’s written so far I have every hope that Tamsin will keep us strictly to the science of modelling, presenting in a simple and clear manner (hopefully with plenty of analogies), and explaining — whether they are ‘wrong’ or ‘useful’ — why models are such a valuable tool with which to extend our knowledge of Earth science.

    I also hope she comes down very hard on those who seek to subvert the process to meet their own agenda or ideology.

  84. James P

    Thank you Doug Cotton for that very clear exposition. I think the lay interpretation might be that ‘all bets are off’ where current climate models are concerned! It also rather nicely confirms Tamsin’s blog title…

  85. Michel Crucifix

    All models are wrong but some are useful has been longly debated, but maybe not so much in the context of complex systems, thus climate. Whether a theory may be ‘true’ or tend towards the ‘truth’ is a long-standing 20th century debate, between what are known as the ‘realists’ (theories tend towards the truth, and this is only this way that one can explain their success; the no-miracle) and the ‘anti-realists’ , who adopt a more relativistic position. The latter one definitely passes the test better for complex systems, to my opinion.

    I’d like to say more about this in in the context of climate science paper; in the meantime you may want to have a look at a more ancient paper of mine (informally peer-reviewed, but non formally) : {I am aware of possible abuse by the skeptics}

    http://www.climate.be/users/crucifix/Climatology_Today.pdf

  86. Mydogsgotnonose

    Michael Crucifix; Greenhouse gases have nothing to do with ice ages. Stott 2007 showed the warming of the deep Southern ocean preceded CO2 rise by 2 ky. It took 1.3 ky for the deep cold currents to bring nutrients, particularly iron to the tropical sea surface and another 0.7 ky for that to warm and for CO2 to rise.

    The real cause of the end of ice ages and modern Arctic melting, part of a 70 year cycle, is biofeedback but to get to it you have to correct the faulty optical physics of clouds in the climate models. The proof that we are now cooling is here: http://bobtisdale.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/figure-101.png

    GHG-AGW can’t cause such massive cooling. Basically, the IPCC models are bunkum; faulty aerosol physics used as the fudge factor to make it appear they explain the past. The low level cloud optical depths are double reality, the net AIE which Hansen has just raised by ~50%, is the wrong sign.

    They cannot predict the future. It’s time people working in ‘climate science;’ realised they have been sold a pup.

  87. Doug Cotton

    Michel: It is not a matter of calling into question the “authority” of scientists as your paper states.

    How and why should one scientist have “authority” over another with an opposing view?

    What matters is which one is applying correct physics, mathematics or whatever, Nothing else matters.

    It is incorrect physics to treat the Earth’s surface as if it were radiating as a blackbody in space would do. The surface is not insulated from its surrounds, namely the atmosphere and sub-surface crust, deep ocean waters etc.

    Hence it is incorrect physics to apply Stefan-Boltzmann calculations to the surface as is done in the development of the AGW hypothesis.

    Hence the AGW hypothesis is not grounded in correct physics. Need I make the final statement?

    • Michel Crucifix

      Dear Doug,

      It would be just so simple if we had to apply ‘laws’ from a cooking receipt book to solve puzzles…. and scientists would be jobless as computers would do the job. Science do not work this way. Perhaps as a caricature, even solving the movement of a mass attached to a spring requires some judgement, about which approximations to make, which paradigm to use (Newton’s in this case), how to make measurements etc. Not to speak about a complex system, where different paradigms and modelling strategies coexist.
      This is with experience and confrontation of his / her ideas with observations and other scientists that a scientist gradually gains authority. For example, when I read “it is incorrect physics to apply Stefan-Boltzmann calculations to the surface as is done in the development of the AGW hypothesis. ” I am left with the feeling that the person writing this mis appreciates the role that is actually given the the Stefan – Boltzman law in my conclusions about climate change. I can’t blaim the person who wrote this: developing climate models, thinking about the role they should take in the creation of knowledge about its dynamics, accommodating available information at a whole range of time scales about climate dynamics takes time but has a value that goes beyond what can be written in a single text book. Climate scientists claim authority in the same way that an eminent physician claims authority : this authority surely finds its source in having studied theory, but above all it is justified by having been confronted with the practice for many years. Physicians, just as climate scientists, run sometimes the risk of being locked into a dead end paradigm for a while and err in their judgement, but the constant confrontation to the facts, the demand of the public, their own retrospective and the diversity of the community alleviates this risk.

  88. oldtimer

    I have added you to my daily blog list to visit. Be aware that I am not a scientist but a long suffering (UK) taxpayer and energy user subjected to the costly implications of the Climate Change Act. My background, in part of my working life, was in financial modelling – budgets and financial forecasts at most three to four years ahead. The aim of these was as much an attempt to gain an understanding of the causes of sales, profits and losses in the business that was modelled as to attempt to forecast them; such forecasts were invariably wrong. The business was complicated. It comprised the operations of some dozen businesses, operating throughout 12 countries in Europe. Each experienced different market growth rates, a different market mix, different exchange rates, different inflation rates, different levels and sources of competition, a different product mix and option mix. The products were manufactured in and sourced from three different countries and each product comprised some 2000 different parts and sub assemblies. The forecasts were based on assumptions about all of these elements. Needless to say, the forecasts were never “right”. Even if, overall, they turned out to be close to the actual outcome, the underlying reasons were almost invariably different from the underlying assumptions made in the first place. That is why it was so vital to understand the reasons for an outcome, to understand what was happening beneath the surface of an overall outcome. That way the business had a way to adapt and change itself to the realities of the markets in which it sought to compete.

    From my perspective, the apparent failure to undertake a rigorous analysis of the differences between actual outcomes and the forecasts that have been made constitute a very big hole in the world of climate science modelling. I hope you will be able to help fill that hole.

  89. Mydogsgotnonose

    Doug Cotton: You’re correct. The IPCC case is that by only accepting ideas that conform with its criteria, even getting editors who deviate from this to lose their jobs, it is trying to establish a scientific authority similar to that of the Catholic Church in the time of Galileo.

    This authority is based on 4 fundamental physics’ errors, discussed above. The only way to contend with this faux authority is experimental; the World has started to cool slightly. But the response has been to claim the variability of climate is increasing, objectively not the case.

    So, the IPCC and ‘climate science’ is a cuckoo on the nest of real science, grabbing resources and power by pandering to politicians and the finance industries which stand to get lots more profit from unnecessary carbon trading and higher insurance premiums. This is not science but alchemy.

  90. Richard Betts

    Wonderful to see Michel Crucifix here – hi Michel, hope you are well, I’m looking forward to reading your contributions which no doubt will be excellent!

  91. Tamsin Edwards

    I’d rather people didn’t bandy about “liar” and “fraud”, please. I don’t mind more personable expressions such as “these two things seem to contradict each other…could someone explain?”. But not accusations.

    The most important thing to me is that these discussions are polite and fruitful.

    Official comments policy coming soon…

  92. Tancred

    “ignoring certainties”

    If significant uncertainties are input to models, there can be no certainties about their output.

    A model is no more than the logical output of the modeler’s input assumptions, which are subject to selection bias — never mind the difficulty of reducing to formulae the behavior of a highly dynamic and chaotic system over a period of time.

    Economists have the same problem and literally after centuries of “study” and “research”, none can propose explanations of economic behavior which all other distinguished economists agree to. The fault lies not in their stars or their intellects but in their ultimately unprovable assumptions. As in climate science.

  93. geronimo

    John Russell: “Based on what she’s written so far I have every hope that Tamsin will keep us strictly to the science of modelling, presenting in a simple and clear manner (hopefully with plenty of analogies), and explaining — whether they are ‘wrong’ or ‘useful’ — why models are such a valuable tool with which to extend our knowledge of Earth science.”

    It is always difficult to understand motives, here I believe Tamsin’s motives are, amongst other things:

    1. To explain to the baying pack of well organised, oil funded deniers, that there are decent scientist out there doing decent work on climate change, and becauseof that their decent their words should carry more weight than they currently do with the deniers. And there is no denying that there are thousands of decent people doing climate research, but maybe the deniers might be persuaded of this objective.

    2. I suspect that Tamsin believes that if she, and her colleagues, explain honestly and what they’re doing in the models that the denier hordes would be persuaded that the claim made by the IPCC that it was “very likely” that most of the increase in temperature in the 20th century was caused by human emissions of CO2. has reasonable merit. Because, whether Tasmin or Richard Betts or most of their estimable colleagues think, this is the number one discussion issue on modelling in climate science because it’s acceptance as true has already led to rising fuel prices, abandonment of sustainable energy(by which I mean sustainable in the sense that we will maintain a strategy for the provision of future energy regardless of how it’s generated), and fuel poverty in the UK.

    2. I am all for discussing the models and modelling techniques used by the climate science community, it seems to me that the people who know about modelling systems are engineers and as Tasmin isn’t an engineer it would be nice to have her exposed to the views of experts who have to make models and build things from them that can be life critical. I’m sure that the QA techniques they use to ensure their models are indeed telling them something useful will help the climate community.
    3. “…explaining — whether they are ‘wrong’ or ‘useful’ — why models are such a valuable tool with which to extend our knowledge of Earth science. I’m and engineer too, not a modeller I hasten to add, so my twopenn’orth is that models are brilliant at helping to extend knowledge in lots of fields. None of them can foretell the future behaviour of a coupled non-linear chaotic system. So it will be great to hear from Tamsin and her fellow climate scientists what they believe the uncertainties around future climate developed from the 19 or so GCMs are, and why they haven’t sent a round robin, something like the one sent in defence of the CRU warning of the dangers of taking the highly unreliable forecasts from the models on face value.

    There is a lot dependent on what these scientists are telling the world, so far I have had contact with Richard Betts, who appears to be an extremely decent sort of cove, what is clear to me is that he doesn’t seem to understand the table he’s sat at to play his cards, and if we can get decent scientists like Tasmin and Richard to understand what the policy implications of their prognostications are, and what the implications are if they’ve got them wrong, then we will have done them, and us, a favour.

    Welcome to the blogosphere Tamsin.

  94. Barry Woods

    Tamsin _ I do prefer your style of climate communication (Peter is with the big guns though in the USA)

    Imagine if you had a teacher, who made statements in class.. and then when a student asked, for an explanaion, or a page number or reference and reasoning to explain why someone or something was wrong, you were then met with Peter Gleick’s apparent attitude to ‘sceptics’

    From The Register…
    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/01/30/wsj_global_warming_letter/

    Gleick goes on to point out that he has recently organised a pro-warmist open letter signed by no less than 255 scientists, not just a measly 16 – and none of them ignorant rocketeers or astronauts either – but the WSJ turned this down.

    In that letter – which did get published anyway (PDF), in premier boffinry mag Science – Gleick and his co-signatories insist that it is not the sceptics but they the warmists who are being persecuted by oppressive dogmatics. Rather than Lysenko, they evoke from the same era the spectre of US senator Joseph McCarthy and his anti-communist witch hunts. They write:

    We also call for an end to McCarthy-like threats of criminal prosecution against our colleagues based on innuendo and guilt by association, the harassment of scientists by politicians seeking distractions to avoid taking action, and the outright lies being spread about them.

    This is ironic as the sceptic Professor Lewis, who describes global warming as “the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist,” was actually forced out of his academic position as a young boffin in 1950 for refusing to sign a McCarthy-era “loyalty oath” as a matter of principle.

    The debate is plainly becoming unpleasantly polarised and extreme on both sides. As is common in such situations, people are starting to think of the children: Dr Gleick, for instance, has recently joined the board of the National Center for Science Education, an American non-profit which for many years has done sterling work defending the teaching of evolution in US science classrooms against creationist attempts to suppress it.

    Depressingly for those not absolutely convinced of the warmist argument, the NCSE has now taken on an extra mission, for which it has brought Dr Gleick on board: “to defend and support the teaching of climate change”. As far as Dr Gleick is concerned, doubting the case for immediate and serious action against carbon emissions is the same as being a creationist as well as a McCarthy-style witchfinder.

  95. John Costigane

    Tamsin,

    Initialization is part of model runs. Can you have as starting point the imprecise origin of an oscillation?

    Does Peter’s surname sound’ ick’ or ‘eek’? WUWT devotees, I assume, await your answer with (jovial) equanimity.

  96. Anteros

    Tamsin,
    You say ‘Official comments policy coming soon
    Do have a long hard think about it. I only say that because it can have a very important effect on the tone, nature and eventually guest-list of blogs. Are there blogs you particularly like? Is it a consequence of the moderating policy/comments policy? Do you have ruthlessness in your nature?! I think a clear comments policy that is in some way an expression of who you are is a great boon, because in so many instances you can refer people to the comments policy without giving any offence at all.
    Having said that, I am happiest at Judith Curry’s blog where there is almost no moderating at all. Who knows!
    ***
    I followed Richard Betts’ link to Doug McNeall’s blog to find this –

    I understand that many people don’t trust climate models (and in fact, it is my job not to trust them either), but they do offer one of many strands of evidence that the surface warming that we see is unexpected, without anthropogenic forcing of the Earth system

    While you’re still on the fascinating choice of your blog title [it gets better, the more I think about it] the above quote leads me to a couple of questions. Firstly, do you find your trust [or ‘belief’] in your models varies in instructive ways? I mean do you vary between thinking they capture (or are just about to capture) something profound about the real world, and reminding yourself that you are using an ‘always wrong’ tool for its possible usefulness?
    Secondly, and perhaps more substantively, do you agree that the models themselves as Doug McNeall says, provide evidence about whatever it is you’re modelling? Can models provide actually provide evidence? Is that how you would characterise their usefulness?

    Questions questions – one of the perils of a blog! 🙂

  97. Mydogsgotnonose

    Geronimo: ‘it seems to me that the people who know about modelling systems are engineers and as Tasmin isn’t an engineer it would be nice to have her exposed to the views of experts who have to make models and build things from them that can be life critical.’

    No professional process engineer accepts the concept of ‘back radiation’ as an energy source. It comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of radiation physics, the use of S-B for a single body to give total radiative flux from that body. That’s wrong: you use multiple S-B equations for all emitter-absorber pairs in line of sight; the energy transfer is the net value and at equilibrium is always from hotter to colder.

    The importance is that by adding this imaginary energy to IR from the Earth’s surface, iterative feedback gives 3 to 5 times observed warming if that is assumed to be mostly GHG-AGW. You then have to back-correct by fudge factors, double real optical depth and an imaginary net AIE based on incorrect physics.

    Last year, a Dutch student did the definitive experiment. He shinned up a radio mast at night and showed Up-Down IR energy fell exponentially with height – Beer-Lambert for the IR emitted by the surface being absorbed by the air. Another way of showing the IPCC ‘back radiation’ is bunkum is the following thought experiment:

    You’re on a beach, air temperature 25°C, and it’s windy so sand temperature is a cool 30°C. You put up a windbreak and to maintain constant convective plus radiative energy flux from the sand to atmosphere, the sand temperature rises to 45°C, nice and warm, a mini UHI effect.

    Assuming 0.2 air absorptivity, 0.85 sand emissivity and that half the extra radiated energy absorbed by the atmosphere is re-radiated downwards, the IPCC ‘GHG blanket’ idea, extending to a large enough area, say the Sahara desert, you have just increased warming by ~ 5.4 times AR4’s 1.6 W/m^2 net GHG-AGW. Yet the IPCC does not claim UHI causes global warming!

    The way out is to use measured Prevost Exchange [climate science’s ‘DLR’] as a measure of impedance to IR transmission in the atmosphere. The correct predicted temperature rise will fall dramatically and you won’t have to fudge it by imaginary cloud cooling.

    By the way I resent being called a denier. There is GHG-AGW but it’s mostly from H2O; the CO2 effect is small and could be net negative from self absorption near the earth’s surface, a phenomenon which reduces emissivity and absorptivity of that slice of atmosphere reducing incremental IR impedance. Read the work of Hoyt. C. Hottell who showed how you calculate emissivities and absorptivities of GHGs in air.

  98. Dean_1230

    Tasmin,

    As someone who has been involved in computer modeling for over 20 years, one point that is always in the back of my mind is that we have to keep track of our assumptions. In my field (propulsion), we do this by often assuming away many issues, such as 1) assume ideal gas – we know the gasses aren’t ideal, but they’re close for most of the things we look at, 2) assume equilibrium chemistry – again, equilibrium chemistry only happens with infinite time, but the 95% solution is often “good enough”. Then, if someone questions those assumptions, the discussion the impact can be investigated and developed.

    It is these assumptions that give us your blog title – all models are wrong. These assumptions are known to introduce errors into the models. If, however, the area of concern isn’t dependent on those assumptions, then the impact of that assumption is considered negligible and the model is useful.

    What I’ve never seen annotated is the same set of assumptions and their impacts on the results. For instance, what is the fundamental assumption for future solar activity in the GCMs? Are there other fundamental assumptions that simplify the answer but also carry significant baggage as to the accuracy? I look forward to your addressing these and other issues!

  99. Anteros

    The most important thing to me is that these discussions are polite and fruitful.

    Would you settle for fruitful?
    Again, a well-defined comments policy could be profoundly useful. Tamino’s early comment policy mentioned abusive words and said that ‘denialist’ would be sailing close to the wind.. As a result of that equivocation ‘denialist’ is without doubt the most commonly used word on the site. Which makes the site nothing more than an echo-chamber…
    If you’re not keen to have such language on your blog, I’d mention it in the comments policy or it’ll be like Japanese Knotweed in the garden – impossible to root out 🙂

  100. Tamsin Edwards

    Anteros

    I didn’t say that ‘denialist’ would be sailing close to the wind – in fact I haven’t mentioned it yet. But, since you remind me, I would also like to add “denialist” and “denier” to the “please do not use” list. There are people “in denial” in the world about all kinds of things…. But here, I’d like to acknowledge that (a) denier is too close to Holocaust denial associations to be considered polite or neutral and (b) even without its connotations, no-one I have interacted with could be described in this simplistic way.

    Again, polite and non-generalising versions may be appropriate: “I feel you have missed the point of what I’m saying…” or “such and such does not accept this evidence as sufficient”. Not “deniers always…” or “all scientists are…”. Think mediation, not accusation; relationship counselling, not acrimonious divorce…

    My aims, scope, terminology and comments policy are all related, so they will be in one post. I need to finish some work off first though.

  101. Anteros

    Well spotted…
    Yes – just using Tamino as an example.
    Glad you’re for civilised language.

  102. Sashka

    @ geronimo

    1. I’ve been around for a long time but I’ve never met a single person whom I could accuse of being oil funded denier with any basis. (As opposed to ignorant people who are even more abundant on the other side.) If you have any factual evidence of such well organized denial why don’t you present it? Otherwise it seems like you are propagating anothe myth.

    2. I’m sure it’s the opposite. The open they are the fewer people will believe in the IPCC conclusions.

    3. An interesting point about QA. Yes, I’d love to hear about it. I don’t think, however, that QA would help ensure usefulness of the models. QA could vet out more or less obvious errors. But beyond that?

    4. If Tamsin believes that GCMs are not only wrong but also useful I’d like to know in what sense. In my view, most useful models are the simplest ones where you can easily see what goes on. The large kitchen-sink variety are of limited utility at best. Yes, you can stress inputs and look at outputs but you’re not studying the real world but the properties of the model itself. But the model is wrong, as we know.

  103. SteveW

    I understand that many people don’t trust climate models (and in fact, it is my job not to trust them either), but they do offer one of many strands of evidence that the surface warming that we see is unexpected

    Model runs are not evidence in any commonly held sense of the word, however, that’s a full discussion in itself along with classing model runs as experiments.

    As far as soliciting ideas for future posts, and assuming (as I have) that you are not sceptical of the pronouncements of the climate science fraternity (as a whole, I don’t doubt you must despair at some of the more extreme arm waving and gnashing of teeth), how about a post explaining/justifying the various adjustments made to historic data (I’m thinking predominantly of GISS) and outlining the effect these adjustments have had on the various model projections?

    As a sceptic, that is one issue which sits very uneasily with me and a clear, concise justification might go some way towards convincing folk that there’s nothing untoward going on.

  104. Mr Potarto

    All very interesting and I’m looking forward to more.

    I’d also like to thank Bob Ward for mentioning tobacco. I know a lot of us were concerned it had been overlooked in this conversation, so it’s good to see him correcting this oversight.

  105. Anteros

    SteveW –

    You could have had Hadcrut3 in mind, too….
    For anyone with a suspicious/paranoid streak, it will raise eyebrows to the roof when Hadcrut4 is published. What the outraged headlines will say is that 15 years of cooling – which Hadcrut3 will get show in a month or two will overnight turn into 15 years of cooling. How? By changing the records of the past. Simples.
    The ‘justification’ is clear enough – parts of the Arctic (bits that are warming) especially Siberia haven’t been well represented in the past so have been ‘added’ retrospectively which makes the record show more warming over the last ten years.
    Just to show that I am relatively free of the suspicion I mentioned, I believe the UAH temperature series is to be adjusted in the other direction to similarly compensate for some ‘bias’.

    I guess I’m just predicting a fair bit of spluttering about the changes. Tribal spear waving etc.

  106. SteveW

    @Anteros

    Oddly, I was less bothered by HadCRUT, for exactly the reasons Maurizio states (sort of).

    If the current trend changes from cooling to warming due to the addition of extra data points in the arctic, it does suggest something of a less than global nature to the pattern. Regardless, I’d rather see more stations being added to the network rather than the (semi-long term) recent trend (since the war?) of cutting and cutting the number of stations used.

    In any case, genuine transparency as to what adjustments are made and why would represent a massive step in the right direction. I can’t say that I’m particularly optimistic as to the likelihood of it happening though.

  107. Phil Reeves

    This was a really interesting first post. What you have created with your title is a language debate, which are normally pointless, in this case I think it is of significance. The way science is presented to a scientifically illiterate audience is not a question of how to present it but rather how to convert your audience into a scientifically literate one. I know that is something of a pipe-dream at the moment but I don’t think in the meantime you should mince your words. I prefer ‘All models are models’ undeniable true and promotes further questioning but maybe a little tautologous for a blog title. Really looking forward to more.

  108. Gixxerboy

    Good luck with all of this Tamsin. I’ll be dropping in from time to time and if you’re talking to Richard Betts tell him my offer of a pint of Speckled Hen still stands. 😉

    • Tamsin Edwards

      Thanks guys.

      I’ve thought of quite an interesting way, I think, to bring together some of these ideas for my next post but I need a little time to think it through. Will mull…

    • Tamsin Edwards

      Oops – I guess I didn’t check very thoroughly.

      Better to be the fourth than the second, in terms of treading on toes.

      Palaeo forward modelling undoubtedly a future topic.

  109. Paul Matthews

    Steve W / Anteros: The system currently used at GISS is absurd. The starting point is GHCN adjusted, which already incorporates (erroneous) adjustments for discontinuities and homogeneity. GISS then applies its own adjustments to remove ‘suspicious records’ and its own homogeneity adjustment!

    • steven mosher

      oddly I get the same answer as gisss using ann entirely different dataset using 3 entirely different methods. you might know me I was one of the guys bugging hansen to release his code. he did. and nothing in that code is problematic. this is the way it should work. I checked his work. did my own method. used 2 other methods and used a different source for data and found no substantial issues.

  110. Gavin Simpson

    Interesting first post Tamsin. I’d be interested in hearing a bit more about “physically-based forward modelling” in relation to palaeoclimate. I use some of the statistical methods used in palaeoclimate reconstructions from biological proxies (though am not involved in palaeoclimate work per se) and would appreciate some discussions/thoughts on this topic in a future post or posts.

  111. Anteros

    Tamsin,
    Do you have the facility of adding either nesting [cf Climate Etc/SoD/CA] or comment numbering [cf Collide-a-scape]?
    If your blog lives up to its early promise, and attracts a large number of comments – especially those leading to discussion – a long linear list of un-numbered comments can get seriously unmanageable.
    It doesn’t matter at blogs like WUWT because the threat of a discussion breaking out never seems to materialise, so the fact that the thread-type makes it very difficult is neither here, nor there.

    I suspect your blog will attract a great deal of intelligent interest, and the facility for nesting/comment-numbering helps discussion. I know a lot of people don’t like nesting, tho’. Just a thought 🙂

    P.S. I think smilies add a pleasant atmosphere too! 🙂

  112. Alexander Harvey

    Tamsin,

    I can share Gleick’s concerns but not his approach. I believe that scope for much fun and games with the uncertainties has been fostered by just such approaches having lead to a failure to adequately characterise the uncertainties publicly.

    I see that you have published with both Jonathan Rougier and Michel Crucifix and hence be well aware of just how under-represented to the lay audience your modes of thinking are. If it be an encouragement, I find both they and others such as Michael Goldstein tend to engender more rather than less appreciation of the value of, and information to be gleaned from, the simulators. Put more simply, I am reassured that these people are working on these issues.

    I think that any exposure that you can give to the battery of approaches being brought to bear on characterising uncertainties would be a net positive. Given that uncertainty is not going away, I think it is important to lift the lid on both the uncertainty and how it is explored and embraced.

    Alex

    • Tamsin Edwards

      Alex, thanks. Working with Jonty, Michel, and indirectly Michael has definitely influenced my choice of name. Their focus on understanding, and clarity in thinking about, model structural uncertainty underpins my views on the subject. I will go into this in a bit more detail in the first or second next post.

  113. Frank

    Has anyone ever published a K&-style surface and planetary energy budget summarizing the output from various climate models? (I’ve seen feedbacks abstracted from models, but we apparently have no ability to directly observe a feedback.)

    At SOD, we were discussing whether increasing DLR from GHGs will mostly increase surface temperature (and surface radiation) or perhaps be mostly diverted to the atmosphere by increased convection. Models don’t handle convection very well. Do they partition the upward heat flux from the surface into radiative and convective components roughly correctly? (Presumably, or they wouldn’t yield the correct surface temperature in highly convective regions or possibly the mean global surface temperature?)

    When projected higher levels of GHGs are present, how much of the presumably enhanced DLR leaves the surface by convection and how much by radiation? Do all models behave similarly in this respect?

  114. Steve Bloom

    Good luck with this, Tamsin, although I think your chances of persuading this particular set of elderly males on this subject is, well, I suppose I should just defer to Max Planck’s comment. Or perhaps you can attract an audience from other than the “Bish”/Curry axis.

    Re “denier,” your blog, your rules, but it’s amusing that this appeared shortly after your remark:

    “By the way I resent being called a denier. There is GHG-AGW but it’s mostly from H2O; the CO2 effect is small and could be net negative from self absorption near the earth’s surface, a phenomenon which reduces emissivity and absorptivity of that slice of atmosphere reducing incremental IR impedance.”

    (Isn’t it funny that you state your objection to the term but not to most of instances of the thing itself that have cropped up in this thread? Taken at face value that’s something of a Curry-wards tilt, but perhaps you’re still figuring out how to deal with the problem.)

    It’s not so much that most of the “climate skeptic” crowd (and “skeptic” may be more polite but is not at all accurate IMO) believes any one of these fabulisms, but that they could be said to happily be swimming in a sea filled with such. The sea itself is the idea that there’s some sort of conspiracy by scientists, or more benignly widespread incompetence, to put something over on the subject. After that threshhold assumption has been made anything becomes possible. These new results are informative, and see Chris Mooney’s blog for much more related material. So the burden of having to have an internally consistent understanding of the climate falls entirely on the scientists and not on the “skeptics,” which IMO is why attempting to convince them of the science (noting that the science is a proxy for the implications of the science, the latter being the real source of the resistance) as if they were themselves scientists (“citizen” scientists in Curry’s phrase) is doomed to failure. It’s pushing on a string that’s not connected to anything.

  115. Jeff Norman

    Dear Tamsin,

    Thank you for your efforts. I look forward to your posts. Normally I would not chime in like this but I am hoping to encorage your attempt at opening the lines of communication by inflatting your initial blog response quotient.

    I am a chemical engineer with a skeptical bent at this time.

    I have some experience with modelling emissions. I have found the models I have developed to be very useful and the models developed by other people to be wrong.

    Have fun.

  116. steven mosher

    tamsin.
    welcome t blogging.
    on my phone so ill ne short
    and mispelll. a lot

    I enjoyed some of ur other work
    also thx for plugging suprnnet
    I heard caitlin spk at agu once very sharp. good luck as a former modler ii love ur title. I did war games. very wrong and very useful.

  117. manacker

    Tamsin

    Congratulations! Looks like you’re off to a good start.

    I’ve been hanging out at Judith Curry’s “Climate Etc.” blog plus occasionally visiting other sites, but I’m looking forward to dropping in here, as well.

    Max

    PS The name is perfect – gets the debate going.

  118. manacker

    PPS From the many comments you have gotten so far, it looks to me like only a small minority of the posters fall into the more dogmatic left side of your chart (the “it’s all a hoax” or “the science is settled” groups). I’m a chemical engineer and I’d put myself in the “unconvinced” category – the group, which Wiki refers to as “scientific (or rational) skeptics”.

  119. Rob Painting

    That was an interesting to-and-fro with Peter Gleick. I’m afraid I concur with Peter – the name of your blog affirms a skeptic myth – no amount of sober, or well-intentioned, discussion will dispel this.

    The title of your blog will attract many a skeptic, and this expectation seems well-supported on the evidence of this thread alone. You may well find yourself overwhelmed trying to moderate your blog if they become regulars. And if you don’t moderate, your blog will be indistinguishable from any skeptic blog – it will be drowned in skeptic talking points, myths and general tomfoolery.

    if my blog causes this much debate before I’ve written anything, I think I’ve chosen the right name

    I don’t think people like Peter Gleick are that much concerned with debate, neither am I. But if that flicks your switch………

    I’m not saying you shouldn’t discuss these uncertainties, just that your blog name is a poor choice and may perhaps do more harm than any good you may accomplish by discussing said uncertainties.

    Put it this way, if you were a carmaker, would you name your new model ‘death trap on wheels’ and expect consumers to see beyond this?

    • John Russell

      I agree with much of what you say, Rob; particularly, “you may well find yourself overwhelmed trying to moderate your blog if they become regulars. And if you don’t moderate, your blog will be indistinguishable from any skeptic blog – it will be drowned in skeptic talking points, myths and general tomfoolery.”

      I have already raised the issue of strong policing with Tamsin and she is aware of it, so I think we should not pre-judge the way her blog could turn out. If she can persuade those who would otherwise dismiss them, that all models — however ‘wrong’ they are — can have an important contribution to helping us understand what is happening to our planet, then she can only do good.

      Tasmin has set herself a big challenge. She’s thrown a big hook out with an effective bait on it. It will be interesting to see now how she handles the fish she’s attracted.

    • Tamsin Edwards

      Hi Rob,

      Thanks for commenting. Some replies:

      affirms a skeptic myth – it is a truth, not a myth. I know the public understanding of the word “wrong” might be “useless”, as Peter says, but that doesn’t mean I should only apply the word to models behind closed doors with colleagues. As I said to Peter, I think those that want to misrepresent science will do so no matter what you say. I’m interested in talking to people that don’t want to.

      title of your blog will attract many a skeptic – that is partly the idea – to communicate the science to those who have lost trust in it. I hope they do become regulars! I don’t know how many of the comments you’ve had a chance to read – there have been rather a lot – but the majority have seemed to me to be from people saying “OK, we see your intentions are good, we are prepared to listen with an open mind” and I believe we should say the same to them in return.

      Debate, as Richard Betts points out, is essential in science to make sure it is done rigorously. And two-way conversations are also essential in science communication, otherwise we merely lecture without knowing what people understand or want to know. I don’t seek controversy, but I do want people to read this blog and in that sense the name has served part of its purpose (the other being a description of the central focus of my research).

      We are not politicians, we are scientists. We do not seek to spin, stay on message, see things in black and white, or fear showing weaknesses (perceived or real). This should not be an episode of The Thick of It*, with scientists running around in a panic about maintaining a carefully honed image, but about honest, transparency, and treating those that genuinely want to hear about the internal scientific debates with respect.**

      Best wishes,

      Tamsin

      * Non-British readers: buy the DVD, it’s fantastic
      ** as long as they adhere to the comments policy…

    • manacker

      Rob Painting

      As a rational skeptic (lower right-hand side of Tamsin’s chart), I’m afraid I have to disagree with your premise that her blog will “affirm a skeptical myth” that models are poor long-range forecasters of our climate.

      That “myth” does not need affirmation (or confirmation) on a blog site – the past decade’s temperature observations have already accomplished this (cooling of around -0.1 degC per decade versus model projections of warming of +0.2 degC per decade).

      But Tamsin’s blog should get both sides (on the right-hand side of her graph) communicating and citing new work in various climate-related fields that appears from time to time. They can both learn something from each other from such an exchange, provided they are open-minded.

      And, hey, maybe both sides will slowly move to the center, so they are eventually clustered around the horizontal axis.

      Not a forced “consensus”, mind you – just slightly less polarization of the opinions.

      Max

  120. tonyb

    Tamsin

    In my mind I can hear Sheldon from Big Bang Theory saying;

    “All models are INDEED wrong-except for mine of course.”

    It’s a great title and one that is likely to be remembered, which surely is an important consideration. It will be interesting to know how many articles you intend to post, it seems to me that visiting bloggers like to be continually thrown fresh meat, which becomes very tiring for the ‘keeper’.

    Personally I’d rather see a limited number of articles that we can all have time to explore in a civil atmosphere..
    Good luck
    Tonyb

    • manacker

      tony b

      Your comment about throwing meat to the visiting bloggers is spot on – and it has to be fresh meat, at that.

      If it’s only rehashes of the party line (as we see on certain other blog sites), the tigers get bored and move on.

      Would you, for example, have tuned in if the title had been, “The Models are Right”?

      I might have tuned in to see if any new evidence was being presented, but when I saw that this was not the case, I would have moved on.

      Tamsin is on the right track, as far as I’m concerned – let’s hope she can keep the momentum going.

      Max

  121. manacker

    Tamsin

    Agree with Joshua that this is a real problem.

    A Rasmussen poll shows that 69% of the US public believes that scientists have falsified global warming research.
    http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/current_events/environment_energy/69_say_it_s_likely_scientists_have_falsified_global_warming_research

    There have been several op-eds, suggesting that it is all just a matter of poor communication between scientists (who are not the best communicators) and a general public (that is not scientifically savvy enough to understand what the scientists are telling them).

    It appears to me to go much further than that. Climategate and ensuing revelations have shown a much deeper problem than simple communication.

    Judith Curry has alluded to this over on her blog and even made a few suggestions for regaining public confidence and trust.

    Like Joshua, I would hope you could also address this problem, with more of a UK (rather than a USA) slant.

    Again, lots of luck with your new blog.

    Max

    • Joshua

      Max –

      That statement you made about that poll lacks any sort of relative context.

      What percentage of the American public thinks that plumbers falsify information to serve their own interests? Doctors? “Skeptics?” Priests?

      Further – that 69% figure is highly misleading, as it includes different levels of qualification (“likely” and “somewhat likely”).

      Further – it offers no data on whether or not they trust the conclusions of the scientists irrespective of whether they think that sometimes they might falsify data.

      Further, we don’t know which climate scientists they were thinking of when they responded with those answers.

      Further, we do know that many people are not particularly well-informed on the viewpoints of climate scientists towards AGW.

      I will agree with you in a sense, however, in that I would suggest that the facile take you offered on the poll you reference is very solid evidence for why Tamsin’s statement needs qualification.

  122. greenman-23

    It will be interesting to see which if any modelling system can not only predict change but perhaps more importantly can identify the optimum way to mitigate or respond to it. Personally I think I have the solution (Di-Functional Modelling) but then don’t we all?

  123. manacker

    Joshua

    Take up your comments on the poll with Rasmussen.

    The poll says what it says, namely that a significant majority of the respondents (picked from the US public) have concluded that climate scientists have falsified data.

    Whether these individuals are “well informed” (in your opinion) or not, is not the issue.

    Which specific climate scientists they were thinking of when they gave their opinion is also totally immaterial. Could it have been Michael Mann? Could it have been James E. Hansen? I have no notion, and it is fully immaterial to the poll results.

    Whether or not the respondents “trust the conclusions of the scientists” whom they suspect of “falsifying data” is another moot point (although I would submit that people usually do not “trust” someone who they think is lying to them).

    Your question about “plumbers”, “doctors”, etc. is also beside the point.

    The point is simply that 69% of the US respondents stated that the believed that climate scientists have “falsified data”.

    This tells me that the general public in the USA has a low level of confidence and trust in climate scientists.

    This is very sad, in my opinion, because it is most likely the result of a handful of climatologists, and most likely the IPCC, who have fouled the nest for all climate scientists by falsifying data and other bad tricks that were uncovered and reported over the past two years or so since the initial Climategate revelations.

    Tamsin has written

    “One of the problems we need to overcome is a lack of trust in climate scientists by some members of the public…”

    To which you responded:

    I think discussion on this issue would be strengthened by more specificity:

    I can only agree with you both.

    My post was only to reinforce the notion that the need is there for climate science to regain public trust, as Tamsin has suggested.

    So let’s see where she wants to go with this topic in a future post.

    Max

  124. Joshua

    Max –

    When I read your discussion of the science (not being able to understand the science) I think that you seem smart and knowledgeable and that therefore your “skepticism” may likely have some scientific validity. Then I read a post of yours like the one you just wrote and I think that you are obviously blind to bias in your own thinking – and so I have to wonder to what extent your biases might influence your take on the science.

    Taken in context, your pointing to the Rasmussen poll makes it clear that you consider it evidence of a lack of trust in climate scientists. And in this latest post to me you absolutely confirm that conclusion.

    As such, here are just a couple of points among the many that speak to the flaws in your reasoning:

    “Which specific climate scientists they were thinking of when they gave their opinion is also totally immaterial. Could it have been Michael Mann? Could it have been James E. Hansen? I have no notion, and it is fully immaterial to the poll results.

    That is obviously problematic. If they are thinking of Lindzen or Christy, then they might not be generalizing the opinion to all climate scientists. There was no specificity in the poll about whether the respondents were being asked to comment on climate scientists in general. In what way is it meaningful to say that some scientists, sometimes, falsify data?

    “(although I would submit that people usually do not “trust” someone who they think is lying to them).

    Really? Do you have any idea how studies quantify the amount of times each day people say things they know not to be true? Everyone knows that sometimes, most people “falsify” information. So do you think that most Americans don’t trust anyone?

    Your question about “plumbers”, “doctors”, etc. is also beside the point.

    Ah. It is “beside the point” because you say it is beside the point. By you logic, we could say that most Americans don’t trust anyone. Plumbers. Skeptics. Doctors. Priests. Nurses. If so, then saying that they don’t trust climate scientists is trivial, and serves nothing other than a partisan purpose.

    “This tells me that the general public in the USA has a low level of confidence and trust in climate scientists.

    And that is exactly my point. You draw that conclusion without having the data to support such a conclusion – and it is an opinion that is direct contrast to the data I linked to which are data that are directly relevant to your conclusion.

    This is all very similar to when you used data that showed that opinions of a small percentage of the public (those who knew about climategate in some detail and based on that knowledge changed their opinions about the debate), and indeed, a group who showed strong ideological leanings, was sufficient to conclude that Climategate created a “crisis” in public confidence.

    Anyway – no further discussion in this issue is necessary. It is clear to me that no matter what, you will use whatever data you can find to confirm your bias. That last post of yours makes it clear that further discussion with you on this would be pointless.

  125. manacker

    Joshua

    Neither you nor I can vouch for the accuracy of the Rasmussen poll, which showed that 69% of the respondents (in USA) believed that climate scientists have falsified data.

    The poll is what it is.

    My personal reaction is: if I were a climate scientist, I would want to know why this is so.

    Some might simply write it off to poor communication by scientists, a campaign of “misinformation” by “big oil”, “big coal” (or whomever) or a general public that is not intelligent enough to really understand what is going on.

    Others might simply ignore it or rationalize it away, as it appears you are doing.

    Judith Curry has addressed the general topic of public trust in climate scientists and specifically of the IPCC on her blog site. To a blog request by Willis Eschenbach that she take the lead in initiating an investigation (of her colleagues) she replied:

    Willis, one point. I am prepared to condemn certain practices that are unethical or counterproductive to science. I am prepared to critique an individual piece of research, or even an entire assessment report. However, I am not prepared to denounce individual scientists. It is inappropriate for any of us (particularly someone like myself, in a position of responsibility receiving a government paycheck) to play judge and jury in this matter in a public forum, especially with such a complex situation. In any event, I am personally unwilling to spend all the time it would take to undertake such an investigation to make a responsible judgement.

    Willis thought she should have gone further in order to get the general confidence in climate science back where it should be by singling out the black sheep, but I, personally, find this a very sound approach on her part, in view of her position.

    Since then (than was almost two years ago) .the topic has come up from time to time on her blog, as you know. While she appears to be quite aware of the credibility problem and its root cause, her position on what her role should be seems not to have changed.

    The topic of public trust in climate science in general or in the IPCC , its “consensus process” and certain “mainstream consensus insiders” specifically, is one of general interest, I believe.

    It is in this light that I suggested that Tamsin might want to take the topic up on her blog, possibly with more of a UK (rather than a USA) slant.

    But this was simply a suggestion.

    Maybe you feel it would be better to just “sweep it all under the rug” and hope it eventually goes away.

    Max

    • Joshua

      Max –

      Neither you nor I can vouch for the accuracy of the Rasmussen poll, which showed that 69% of the respondents (in USA) believed that climate scientists have falsified data.

      And you insist on taking that data to support a larger conclusion, invalidly, and in contrast to existing data which suggest something quite different. You have no data to support a conclusion that an opinion that some climate scientists, sometimes, are somewhat likely to falsify data, is any different than views of any other profession, than people in general, or that such a viewpoints links to a lack of trust in the conclusions of climate scientists.

      Saying that some climate scientists, sometimes, are “somewhat likely” to falsify data does not prove what you want it to prove. You are taking data that show one thing ans using it to conclude something entirely different. If you have data to support your conclusion, bring it on. Your absolute insistent on using data that show something else entirely to prove that point is a stark and obvious example of confirmation bias. That you insist on doing it repeatedly speaks very poorly of your analytical process.

      • manacker

        Joshua

        Sorry. Your analysis is flawed.

        I am drawing no conclusions except that there has been a loss of confidence among 69% of the polled US public that climate scientists do not falsify data.

        You can draw your own conclusions from this.

        Or you can stick your head in the sand and say that it means nothing regarding public trust in climate scientists.

        Or you can claim it doesn’t matter because the public would likely say the same thing about plumbers (or any other profession), in your opinion.

        Your choice, Joshua.

        Max

        • Tamsin Edwards

          I think you are going round in circles here.

          Joshua, I think Max is simply pointing out there has been at least one poll in which a large fraction express distrust of climate scientists. Whether that is representative of all people, or whether climate scientists can be trusted, is beside the point. I (and others) aim to reduce the level of distrust.

          • Joshua

            Tamsin –

            I think Max is simply pointing out there has been at least one poll in which a large fraction express distrust of climate scientists.

            Except he is taking polling data that show one thing, and forming that conclusion, related to a different question entirely, on the basis of those data. Thinking that some climate scientists, sometimes, are somewhat likely or very likely to falsify data is not, in fact, the same think as “not trusting” climate scientists.

            You’re right, I am going in circles because it seem plainly obvious to me that majorities thinking that some climate scientists, sometimes, might be somewhat likely (or very likely) to falsify data does not support conclusions that a large fraction distrust climate scientists.

            As I have repeatedly said, the poll results are trivial and not sufficient to substantiate the conclusions that Max (and apparently you also) have drawn.

            The data we have from a poll that actually asks about trust in scientists, more generally, (the poll I linked above) shows that large majorities do trust them, and that the level of trust has not changed in any significant way.

            If someone wants to draw conclusions that large fractions view climate scientists differently than how they view other scientists, they should show evidence to support that viewpoint.

            Surely you must know that from a tribal perspective, “skeptics” have a partisan interest in overstating the degree to which the public do not trust climate scientists and the degree of impact of climategate.

            Polling data on the impact of climategate show that of the small fraction of Americans who know about the emails in detail, a relatively small % had their views on climate change altered as a result, and of them, a significant portion had strong ideological leanings that would lead them to distrust climate scientists from the get go (or be likely to overstated the degree to which the emails changed their views).

            Judith Curry has stated that climategate caused a “crisis” among the public w/r/t climate science. When pressed to provide any quantified evidence, she has refused to answer.

            Look, “skeptics” might be right about this – but making statements that aren’t supported by the data is inexcusable, IMO, and is entirely unskeptical. I think that you, like Max, should avoid forming conclusions without supporting evidence.

        • Joshua

          I am drawing no conclusions except that there has been a loss of confidence among 69% of the polled US public that climate scientists do not falsify data.

          Here we go again. “Loss?” Where do you have evidence of a “loss of confidence?”

          To show a “loss,” you have to show one measure relative to another. You have no such data.

          What %’s of Americans, ten years ago, would have said that some scientists in any field, sometimes, would be “somewhat” likely to falsify data? 20 years ago? 5 years ago? You have no idea – so how do you conclude a “loss.”

          Further, once again, would a similar % say that some medical researchers, sometimes, might be somewhat likely to falsify data? You don’t know. If a poll showed such, would that mean that the public on the whole does not trust medical research? Would you then conclude that the majority of the public not trust data put out by medical researchers that show a causal link between a certain substance and cancer?

          Your conclusions on this matter are little else than an object lesson in confirmation bias.

          If you have a poll where large %’s of the American public said that they did not trust climate scientists as a group, or better yet, bring it on. Have you seen the data on public opinion on who they trust most for information on global warming- when they were actually asked who they trust for information on global warming

          http://tamino.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/trust.jpg

          Boy, there’s a shock. The answers are highly dependent on political affiliation – but strong majorities of Democrats, Independents, and even Republicans trust “scientists,” NOAA, the CDC, etc.

          And I have no idea whether the public might say the same about plumbers, or “skeptics” or nurses. That’s the whole point; without those other data, you can’t draw the types of conclusions that you draw to selectively characterize public opinion about climate scientists.

          If you had data that showed that large fractions of Americans do not think that some scientists in other professions to pick one example, are somewhat likely to falsify data, then you would have a more solid basis for forming your conclusions. You don’t have those data.

    • Joshua

      Right. I’m going in circles, and you’re claiming that you’ve seen evidence to conclude a “loss” in confidence on the basis of having zero, nada, zilch, niente, bupkis data that shows change over time.

      Gotcha.

  126. OPatrick

    Way too late, but thought I’d just suggest “All models are … models”. Wrong is wrong. Right is also wrong. Models has meaning that is understood by engagement.

  127. manacker

    Tamsin

    Your exchange with (AGU “ethics” Chair) Peter Gleick (and his heavy-handed approach of trying to force you to change your opinion on the validity of climate models) has taken on new meaning in view of his concession of having faked Heartland documents.

    Max

    It also may give a possible clue to why 69% of the Rasmussen poll respondents stated that climate scientists falsified data.

    Max

      • wws

        I would like to see a new blog named “Peter Gleick is a Liar and a Thief!”

        I wonder if petey boy would think that showed the proper respect for his accomplishments?

  128. Pingback: Thank You Peter Gleick | Digging in the Clay
  129. Kent Clizbe

    Well, flimsin, looks like you were vindicated in your resistance to the Climate Thought Police.

    The Gleickian control freaks who remain in the AGW clique will slowly come round, as their world crumbles around their ears.

    Just hope none of them have holed up in a jungle lair in the Philippines. Like a Japanese soldier who didn’t know WW2 was over, they may continue fighting tilting at their Quixotic Carbon windmills for a few more years, even after the mother ship has surrendered.

    Keep up the honest work.

  130. Pingback: From the ashes of Gleickgate a new mantra is born « The View From Here
  131. Haakon Dahl

    It is precisely this sort of heavy-handedness which has convinced many of us that many of you have placed your suspect politics over your integrity. We are not ignorant; we are fed up. From those of us who have somehow survived the inescapable, undeniable hetero-AIDS apocalypse, welcome to the backlash.

  132. reader

    You got bookmarked [ because of your steadfast approach ( even though self-questioning {as it may be} ) , engagement with Gleickontrol ]. I’d use “ethical” in description of your aim & approach, but the word itself seems to have acquired a bad scent to it these past days.

    Thanks, Tamsin Edwards.

  133. Steve Brown

    It seems to me that this little episode was an early warning of the paranoia that must have gripped Mr Gleick so firmly that he skewered his career on the (Joe) bastion of Heartland.

    Looks like its will be an interesting blog… in my favourites already

  134. Anteros

    Tamsin –

    I’d like to add my thoughts to the poignancy of your twitter exchange with Peter Gleick. ‘Integrity’ is maybe what is being described now, and discussed at Climate Etc (and elsewhere), but the signs weren’t about that. They were about partisanship and the false assumption of ‘us’ v ‘them’ where ‘them’ = bad/evil/selfish. It was very clear that Peter Gleick had that sensibility a few months ago and I think it is a good lesson about what can come from it.

    Perhaps I can re-iterate my concern at the characterisation of sceptics being ‘anti-science’ as per your sceptical compass. This was very much part of Gleick’s thinking – and is almost indistinguishable from equating scepticism with being anti-truth, which may as well then be anti-good…

    A lot of sane people have made this comment in dozens of ways, but unless we credit those we disagree with as having good motives (as in pursuing what they think is for the best) we’re on a very fast, very slippery slope towards taking our whole ethical world and ripping it up, because the ‘end justifies the means’ and, anyway, our opponents are bad.

  135. Anteros

    Tamsin –

    I can’t help adding that I think your choice of blog title (and especially the reasons behind it) have been vindicated 100%. I’ve yet to see a single comment – anywhere – misusing the title to misrepresent what climate modellers do. I don’t wish ill on Peter Gleick personally, but the recent furore has been instructive.

  136. Edim

    “…to communicate the science to those who have lost trust in it.”

    Skeptics haven’t lost trust in science, au contraire. I am 100% skeptical of CO2GW and my trust in science is enormous, just like my belief in the ignorance of experts. In fact, it is my trust in science that makes me skeptical.

    Good luck with your blog Tamsin!

  137. Nelthon

    Urgh – the comments on this blog are disappointing. You need to purge some of the more unhelpful ones aggressively. There’s the usual attempts to rewrite the laws of physics and infantile posts like the following:

    ‘I would like to see a new blog named “Peter Gleick is a Liar and a Thief!”

    I wonder if petey boy would think that showed the proper respect for his accomplishments?’

    Shame. The signal to noise ratio is already low. Fight back!

    • Tamsin Edwards

      Nelthon, I don’t find them disappointing! Have you seen the other parts of the internet? 😉

      I did hesitate over approving the comment “Peter Gleick is a Liar and a Thief” as it breaks my comments policy (though “liar” is demonstrably true). I prefer to err on the side of tolerance when it comes to moderating (I think the only one I have is a single “snip” of the back radiation stuff). To me the (vast?) majority of the comments are sane people saying interesting things. Sorry if a few less sensible ones over-shadowed your view of them.

      Once I find time to post on science again, I think the signal to noise will improve. This is one reason I have avoided blogging on the PG issue.

  138. Jay Pettitt

    I think your blog title is excellent. Clearly Peter Gleik cares deeply about how science is percieved by the public and recognises a problem there, but that doesn’t mean your blog title is wrong.

  139. Charlie A

    The timeline shows that when Peter Gleick was tweeting his comments to you, that he had already impersonated a Heartland board member in order to get non-public documents.

  140. bubbagyro

    I was introduced to this site through WUWT. Very nice. With regard to Blog Titles being wrong, I love the choice that the warm-earther and putatively fraudogenic site “Desmogblog” has chosen as a moniker. It turns out that smog is caused by Ozone as it reacts with hydrocarbons, notably in diesel exhaust. It has nothing to do with warming, greenhouse effect, or CO2, all of which are ostensibly the obsessions of these same desmog actors. Poor choice of blog name, poor choice of recent actions by these web loggers. But what else should we expect from the alarmists and their enablers?

  141. Boston12GS

    This seems a wonderful sight, and you are clearly courageous for undertaking it.

    I am wondering, however, how, or whether, you plan to address or compensate for the nefarious tactics of many of those on the warmest side of the discussion who make clear that they feel it is appropriate to lie, steal, and commit fraud to advance their purportedly “scientific” arguments, Gleick being only the most recent example (and a leader in “ethics” at that).

    It seems your expertise and interests lie in minimizing the error of models, and I wholly believe this to be true, but how is that accomplished in the case of models–such as the IPCC global climate and related models–when the data provided is inherently corrupt and self-serving, as evidenced by the internal ClimateGate email leaks?

    GIGO, no?

  142. Pingback: Global Warming Hoax Weekly Round-Up, Mar. 1st, 2012 « The Daily Bayonet
  143. Irony Tag

    Tamsin – I can’t thank you enough for your approach to this blog. I’m hoping that your schedule will allow you to continue its maintenance.

    I’m a “skeptic”. Yet…I believe the Earth, in the long term, is warming. I believe that human-caused CO2 emissions are a factor in that long term warming. What makes me a “skeptic” (or “denier” to some) is that I am not convinced by the arguments regarding the assumed net-positive feedbacks.

    I’m hopeful this website will be place where I, as a layman, can learn from the dialog from all sides. Hopefully, other scientists in the field will learn to let the facts speak for themselves instead of micromanaging how those facts might appear to others who disagree. Some of us are capable of understanding that science isn’t always black and white.

  144. Evan Kuchera

    Hi Tasmin,

    Came here via Judith Curry. I am a weather modeler (ensembles mainly) and very much appreciate what you are trying to do. The climate wars are spinning out of control and anyone trying to focus on the honest science and be a moderating voice is great to see. I look forward to reading!

  145. Matt McLeod

    Hi Tasmin, EXCELLENT blog title…I have been using this Box quote in my own field of reliability engineering since I came across it in 2007. In essence it sums up the reason for my own skepticism….yeah, “the science is settled”.

    Your feed is now added to my RSS reader. Looking forward to your posts.

  146. CPV

    I really think the point is how to quantify how wrong of how useful the models are and under what circumstances, etc. I think it would be refreshing to admit that some things are not really able to be modeled well (predicted) on arbitrarily long time scales as well…

  147. Stefan Thiesen

    a) I apologize for not staying on topic in the other thread (the spectrum one).
    b) The Blog name is perfect and straight forward and beautifully educational. Also – when doing a finite elements analysis of the mechanical forces in airplane wings or building structures, we use models. And they are wrong. But they are good enough as approximations of reality to trust millions upon millions of lifes to them (in combination with some real life hard empirical testing, that is). This is how it should be. (And – not much space for intuition here :-).

  148. Richard Wakefield

    Nice site, bookmarked. Next time I have a debate with True Believers and models come up, I will be posting a link to this site.

    As for Gleik and his dislike of your title as it might confuse people, he is being very disingenuous. He recently tweeted this:

    Peter Gleick ‏@PeterGleick
    Hot? Not only is 2012 the hottest year ever in the U.S., it is not even close. Brutal figure from NOAA. #climatechange http://pic.twitter.com/G095He3d

    I took him to task over his use of the word “ever”.

    Richard Wakefield ‏@Cz858Shooter
    @PeterGleick So the planet is only 100 years old, that’s what EVER means. #climatechange fraud at its best.

    He should know that his “authority” would mean that the True Believers would assume he means in all of earth history, not that it means since records began. This means that Gleik is deliberately misrepresenting the facts, and hence is lying.

    Why do they do this?

  149. Richard Wakefield

    “If we start to ‘spin’ the science, to gloss over the known unknowns, then we deserve these accusations.”

    Hell, that doesnt even include the unknown unknowns.