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A Science-Organized Community: Organizing U.S. Climate Modeling (3)

By: Dr. Ricky Rood , 9:18 PM GMT on June 21, 2011

A Science-Organized Community: Organizing U.S. Climate Modeling (3)

In the previous entry I set out the need of a scientific organization; that is, an organization that is designed and run to honor the tenets of the scientific method. This stands in contrast to, say, a laboratory or a center that is populated by scientists carrying out a multitude of projects, each following the scientific method. One motivation for the scientific organization is the steady stream of reports from the past two decades calling for better integration of U.S. climate activities to provide predictions to meet societal needs. At the foundation of my argument is that the way we teach, fund and reward scientific investigation has been, traditionally, fragmenting. Without addressing this underlying fragmentation, there are high barriers to achieving the needed integration. (see, Something New in the Past Decade?, The Scientific Organization, High-end Climate Science).

What does it take for an organization to adhere to the scientific method? Ultimately, I will arrive at the conclusion that it takes a diligence of management and governance, but for this entry I will continue to focus on the elements of the scientific method, and specifically the development of strategies to evaluate and validate collected, rather than individual, results.

In May I attended a seminar by David Stainforth. Stainforth is one of the principals in the community project climateprediction.net. From their website, “Climateprediction.net is a distributed computing project to produce predictions of the Earth's climate up to 2100 and to test the accuracy of climate models.” In this project people download a climate model and run the model on their personal computers, then the results are communicated back to data center where they are analyzed in concert with results from many other people.

This is one example of community science or citizen science. Other citizen science programs are Project Budburst and the Globe Program. There are a number of reasons for projects like this. One of the reasons is to extend the reach of observations. In Project Budburst people across the U.S. observe the onset of spring as indicated by different plants – when do leaves and blossoms emerge? A scientific motivation for doing this is to increase the number observations to try to assure that the Earth's variability is adequately observed – to develop statistical significance. In these citizen science programs people are taught how to observe - a protocol is developed.

Education – that is another goal of these citizen science activities, education about the scientific method. In order to follow the scientific process, we need to know the characteristics of the observations. If, as in Project Budburst, we are looking for the onset of leafing, then we need to make sure that the tree is not sitting next to a warm building or in the building’s atrium. Perhaps, there is a requirement of a measurement, for example, that the buds on a particular type of tree have expanded to a certain size or burst in some discernible way. Quantitative measurement and adherence of practices of measurement are at the foundation of developing a controlled experiment. A controlled experiment is one where we try to investigate only one thing at a time; this is a difficult task in climate science. If we are not careful about our observations and the design of our experiments, then it is difficult, perhaps impossible, to evaluate our hypotheses and arrive at conclusions. And the ability to test hypotheses is fundamental to the scientific method. Design, observations, hypothesis, evaluation, validation – in a scientific organization these things need to be done by the organization, not each individual.

Let’s return to climateprediction.net. A major goal is to obtain a lot of simulations from climate models to examine the range of variability that we might expect in 2100. The strategy is to place relatively simple models in the hands of a whole lot of people. With this strategy it is possible to do many more experiments than say one scientist or even a small team of scientists can do. Many 100,000s of simulations have been completed.

One of the many challenges faced in the model-based experiments is how to manage the model simulations to provide controlled experiments. If you think about a climate model as a whole, then there are a number of things that can be changed. We can change something “inside” of the model, for example, we can change how rough we estimate the Earth’s surface to be – maybe grassland versus forest. We can change something “outside” of the model - the energy balance, perhaps, some estimate of how the Sun varies or how carbon dioxide will change. And, still “outside” the model, we can change the details of what the climate looks like when the model simulation is started – do we start it with January 2003 data or July 2007? When you download a model from climateprediction.net, it has a unique set of these parameters. If you do a second experiment, this will also have a unique set of parameters. Managing these model configurations and documenting this information allows, well, 100000s of simulations to be run, with a systematic exploration of model variability. Experiment strategy is explained here.

What impressed me about climateprediction.net is the ability to design and execute a volunteer organization that allows rigorous investigation with of a group of thousands of people on thousands of different computers distributed all over the globe. Protocols have been set up to verify that the results are what they should be; there is confidence in the accuracy of the information collected. Here is an example where scientists are able to define an organization where the scientific method permeates the organization. Is this proof that a formalized scientific organization is possible? What are the attributes that contribute to the success of a project like climateprediction.net? Are they relevant to a U.S. climate laboratory?

Bringing this back to the scale of U.S. climate activities – in 2008 there was a Policy Forum in Science Magazine by Mark Schaefer, Jim Baker and a distinguished number of co-authors. All of these co-authors had worked at high levels in the government, and they all struggled with the desire and need to integrate U.S. climate activities. Based on their experience they posed an Earth System Science Agency made from a combined USGS and NOAA. In their article they pointed out: “The synergies among our research and monitoring programs, both space- and ground-based, are not being exploited effectively because they are not planned and implemented in an integrated fashion. Our problems include inadequate organizational structure, ineffective interagency collaboration, declines in funding, and blurred authority for program planning and implementation.” Planning and implementation in an integrated fashion, I will add – consistent with the scientific method – that is what is needed for a successful scientific investigation by an individual; it is needed to make climateprediction.net substantive; it is needed for any climate organization that is expected, as a whole, to provide integrated climate information.


Figure 1: Location of participants in climateprediction.net. From the BBC, a sponsor of the experiment.

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

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Quoting cyclonebuster:

Sure we do. Put a pot of water on the stove top and turn the heat on what happens?

Ok, last one.

Our atmosphere does not get heat from a burner underneath it!

It is a broiler.

Limit the solar influence and

... - - - ...
gone ~ (W/m squared)
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting cyclonebuster:

Clouds reflect heat and also absorb heat. The warmer we make the oceans with GHGs the more clouds we will make. We should not be doing that.

Not so fast, we do not understand the mechanisms that make clouds to any plausible degree. We certainly do not code for them properly in any given climate model. It is about the total picture, not just a part of it. You cannot have depth perception with one eye closed. I give up now :)

Gnite all>>>>>>>>>>>
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
If I can butt in for a sec(just tell me to get lost if it's a problem, seriously)....for something completely different on this issue....how does it happen politically that all democrats/liberals/leftist/commies are pro-gw(or agw), while all repubs/consevatives/righty/kooks are against the thought. It doesn't make statistical sense, anymore than all men or women would be for/against the issue. None of us are scientists(Masters/Rood excepted). And there's no definitive proof on either side anyway. One side says "better safe than sorry"...the other says "it costs too much". Supposedly, we'll all pay, but then why is it that big oil/gas/coal spends millions, if not billions, doing there own "science". Why bother, if it's a cost that gets passed on to consumer anyway? Perhaps because it really does hurt the bottom line, and god forbid that happens. I don't think any of us here own big chunks of Exxon/Mobil stock and/or declare over 1 million per year in income. Are you really still falling for that trickle down propoganda from decades ago?
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Quoting cyclonebuster:

Negative where did I say clouds in that statement?

Water vapor, cloud formation, GHG's,,,,, Blanket? Most beds (like Earth) have more than one cover, no?

Maybe I should spend my time/posts more wisely~
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting cyclonebuster:

For one:
He refuses to believe that if you increase by one that too will cause more warming. It is no different than putting on a thicker blanket at night to keep warmer.The thicker that blanket becomes the more heat you will trap.

"As of 2008, only 39 out of every 100,000 molecules of air were CO2, and it will take mankind%u2019s CO2 emissions 5 more years to increase that number by 1, to 40."

He doesn't even mention Methane or NOX or other GHGs.

So you refer to cloud formation? Blankets can become shelters during the day, no?

There is your problem, assumption of accuracy .....

We don't know much about could formation. Look for yourself.

I just posted a link recently to the newly understood physics on a cosmic ray seeding process as an example.

The models only use historic seasonal patterns in their code.

They have a flat tire bro~ !
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting cyclonebuster:

Not his resume. It's his view on GHGs that is laughable.

Here it is for your review. This is laughable? Please show us where he is wrong in his position statement? C'mon, you can do it!

http://www.drroyspencer.com/global-warming-natura l-or-manmade/
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting spathy:

I just looked up his credentials.
He seems to be very credible to me.

Someone did not look at the data set that is actually used.

I don't think the good Doc can afford his own satellite :)
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting cyclonebuster:

And the naysayers think the Arctic Ice will increase in spite of a GLOBAL warming ocean. That is laughable! LOL!

You obviously did not look at the SST item. It must be the tunnel vision :)
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting cyclonebuster:

I don't see where World oceans are cooling globally do you? LOL!

Here ya go, copied from my earlier post on similar items to save time on Friday. I hate smart phones :)



No wonder ACE has hit record lows. Gotta have some heat for tropical systems, no?

http://www.coaps.fsu.edu/~maue/tropical/global_ru nning_ace.jpg

And a recently published paper from the good Dr Maue also :)

http://www.coaps.fsu.edu/~maue/tropical/2011GL047 711-pip.pdf

His site if interested. ACE speaks volumes folks.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting spathy:
Now should I post a left study that shows Phytoplankton explosions?

Seems to me that there are too many Gov funded studies that contradict each other.
Besides that, the intent of posting it is wholly different.

You would not post that expecting hoping that we would assume an extrapolation to zooplankton taking over the planet.

McNot's purpose was to hope that we would assume extrapolation to zero, get all worried, and "do something" to make it not happen.

When all the while, we know so very little behind all of the phenomena that fluctuate over the course of decades and centuries and the drivers behind those changes. All we know is that we measure some change in this or that. Is it logical to assume that any measured change in any realm over the last 50 years is due to the very same cause? And that the causation is only one way and/or positively reinforcing? And that extrapolation to zero or infinity is valid?
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thanks, cb....

Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
maybe man will evolve into something completely different.... I only hope I'll have thinner thighs....
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
I don't see where World oceans are cooling globally do you? LOL!

I dont know myself. i think liquid water is vulnerable to fluctuations in temperature at any lattitude.

our own bodies normally hand around 98.7 deg. But sometimes we get viruses and our temps go up. or sometimes we fall into a frozen swimming pool and it goes down.

life just wouldn't exist at all if there were no cyclical changes to the environment.

but even that can be debated.

because we're just dumb space monkeys that only learned how to start a fire 20-10 thousand years ago.

we are frightened by the unexplainable.

its a vannity flaw from being at the top of the food chain

if there were people eating monsters walking the erath, unphased by our weapons, i guarantee you ice melting would be near the bottom of the list as far as general public fears.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
the Earth's core is like a disco inferno...

might as well do The Hustle and enjoy the ride...

as I stated previously, how arrogant are we to think that man will be on the earth forever? Tell that to the dinosaurs.... and the mastedons and saber toothed cats....

creatures have come and gone, with no help from man....

maybe it's man's turn to go as well...

bring on the Ancient Aliens.....
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:

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Dr. Ricky Rood's Climate Change Blog

About RickyRood

I'm a professor at U Michigan and lead a course on climate change problem solving. These articles often come from and contribute to the course.

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Clouds in the lee of the Rockies at sunset.
Clouds in the lee of the Rockies at sunset.
Clouds in the lee of the Rockies at sunset.
Clouds in the lee of the Rockies at sunset.