A Case for Universal Climate Model
As a climate change skeptic, I often wonder why there are so many climate models that scientists seem to rely on. Their combined predictive records have been less than stellar. I fully recognize that global climate is very complex and require many disciplines. My hope is that a new initiative, taken by a reputable independent source, will come up with the ultimate climate model. One that will be much better than what exists today and that it will be open source and can be verified by anyone. This will go a long way, I believe, to resolve the current debate over climate change.
- Mar. 2016
In a recent talk on climate science, I posed a question to the speaker about why there are so many climate models. To my surprise, she did not know the answer. It seems to me, if this climate change or AGW theory is to be taken seriously, don't we need to know if the models are accurate? Currently, I believe there exist over 18 climate models around the globe by various groups. They are well funded by various governmental agencies and private foundations. They hold annual conferences and discuss / warn the dire consequences of AGW. Yet, we have little understanding the inner workings of these models, how they are implemented(coded) and what assumptions are made.
Apollo 11 Moon Landing
A Comparison (Analogy)
Let me digress and use the Apollo moon mission as an example. In 1961, President Kennedy issued a challenge to the scientific community to land a man on the moon. Within a decade, NASA was able to accomplish this with the landing of Apollo 11 and Neil Armstrong. How did they do it? It was a team effort by many top scientists and engineers and programmers.
How much harder is climate science compared to landing a man on the moon and returning safely? We have spent the last 25 years discussing this and yet I don't see an end in sight. Yes, we had climate summits and Kyoto treaties and the Paris CO21 but they don't seem to have any teeth or impact. We need a new direction.
What Are The Objectives?
This new initiative should accomplish the following 3 things.
- answer the question what percent of climate change is man-made.
- able to predict climate variations going forward based on various "what if" scenarios.
- able to regression test and validate current data collected over the past 50-75 years.
This is done by creating a "Universal" climate model that takes into account all known factors and drivers of climate on earth. A team of top scientists, engineers, programmers and climatologists should be assembled and given the task of creating this model.
Some Attributes of Climate Model
I believe an universal climate model should include some attributes. As an outsider, I would like to see all the known drivers of climate both natural and man-made accounted, including the effects of our sun. It should include all the known natural cycles of our solar system. It should include all known feedback both positive and negative of various elements. It should contain some "unknown" source which may accommodate any surprises. These may be "black swan" events that happen infrequently and perhaps only single event but may have long term effects on our climate.
The model needs to be extendable.
The source code should be open, allow for inspection and independent verification.
The model should be able to run simulations "what If scenarios" going both forward and backwards in time.
This reminds me a little of the story of the blind men and the elephant. Each blind man was touching a different part of the elephant's body and trying to guess at the whole. It was impossible. A universal climate model is what is needed for us to understand the whole picture. As complex as this seems to be, we have the technology and the resources to accomplish this. This was not true just a short while ago. However, with the increased monitoring capabilities worldwide, collecting the vast amount of data, and the faster super compute power and the advances in AI software to tackle "big data," we are capable of achieving this.
TJ Watson Research Lab (Yorktown NY)
Who Should Lead?
The whole effort must be lead by an independent and reputable and unbiased group. I must rule out the United Nations (IPCC) as a lead because it has been so politicized in the past.
I do have an ideal group in mind that fits the bill. I believe an international company like IBM can take on this lead position. They have the resources, the reputation of an excellent Research Lab.,(which I was a proud member), and the skills and experience of Super computing processing and the recent announcement purchase of the Weather Company.
The lead role is to combine all the existing talents and modeling efforts and try to integrate all the pieces and eliminate duplication. The end result would be a more robust model that can be tested and verified and improved over time.
I'm sure other companies like Apple and Google and Microsoft may also fit the bill.
Regardless who is chosen to lead, the candidate must be impartial. They cannot start with any assumptions that might lead to a biased result. That is the key to the success of this effort.
Benefits of a Predictive Climate Model
Assume we have an accurate climate model that can be used for projections into the future. The benefits could be huge. For example, we can test various climate mitigation schemes to see how much of an effect they will have. It will help determine the cost/benefits of various proposals. It will lead to a smarter response to combating climate change. It may also detect some unintended consequences that we have not thought of. Sometimes, we can do more harm than good.
Assume a major catastrophe hit our planet tomorrow, man-made or natural. A model should be able to include this one event and project it's known effects going forward. For example, if a major volcano erupts tomorrow, we can measure the amount of impurities that is spewed into the atmosphere. We can estimate the effects on global temperature due to that one event. Just for argument sake, if the projected global warming due to increased CO2 is 0.1 degree per year over the next 10 years, and the predicted cooling due to this one event is -0.1 degrees over the next 2 years, the net effect would change the total temperature profile even if it is only for 2 years. By separating the natural and the man-made events, we can present a total picture. In the year when the warming fails to increase as predicted, we can account for it in a credible fashion. The same can be said about our Sun. If the sunspot cycle is weaker or stronger in any given 11 years cycle, we should be able to factor that into the total projections.
A new Study with Surprising Find
Here is a new study on climate modeling that is very revealing.
The Conclusion is included here:
"Climate modeling is not climate science. Moreover, the climate science research that is done appears to be largely focused on improving the models. In doing this it assumes that the models are basically correct, that the basic science is settled. This is far from true.
The models basically assume the hypothesis of human-caused climate change. Natural variability only comes in as a short term influence that is negligible in the long run. But there is abundant evidence that long term natural variability plays a major role climate change. We seem to recall that we have only very recently emerged from the latest Pleistocene glaciation, around 11,000 years ago.
Billions of research dollars are being spent in this single minded process. In the meantime the central scientific question – the proper attribution of climate change to natural versus human factors – is largely being ignored."
The above chart speaks for itself. There are too many models and moreover, they are not accurate enough for us to make any predictions about the future. That is the main function of a simulation model. It is only as good as the model maker. I am hoping to stimulate interests in calling for the creation of a universal climate model.
Some Related Info
- Why So Many Climate Models? | California Climate Commons
One Climate site explanation...
- IBM News room - 2015-10-28 IBM Plans to Acquire The Weather Company’s Product and Technology Busines
IBM Press Room - IBM today announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire The Weather Company’s B2B, mobile and cloud-based web properties, including WSI, weather.com, Weather Underground and The Weather Company brand.
- Easy analytics | Home | IBM Watson Analytics
IBM Watson Home site