The Scientific Organization: Organizing U.S. Climate Modeling (2)

By: Dr. Ricky Rood , 4:29 PM GMT on June 15, 2011

The Scientific Organization: Organizing U.S. Climate Modeling (2)

There are a few open themes in these blog posts that need attention – and a couple that I intend to fit together. In this entry I want to return to some of the issues raised in Something New in the Past Decade?, which looked at an old report on the organization of U.S. climate modeling and high performance computing. One motivation for returning to this old report is an ongoing panel study to write a new report about “A National Strategy for Advancing Climate Modeling.” (link)

Over the past 25 years there have been many reports written about climate and weather models (example), climate and weather observing systems (example), high performance computing (example), and how to transition efforts from research to operations (example). If you look into these reports and their conclusions a number of common themes emerge. First, the presence of these reports suggests that there is a long-held perception that U.S. activities in climate science are not as effective as they need to be or could be. The reports consistently conclude with recognition of the creativity and quality of our scientific research, followed by calls for more integration across the federal agencies. In my earlier entry I argued that anytime there is a push towards more integration of research, there is both individual and institutional resistance.

This resistance occurs for many reasons, both good and bad, both structural and cultural. I want to focus on those reasons that appeal to the sanctity of “the science.” These arguments are often based on the notion of creativity and innovation and that creativity and innovation cannot be managed. Further arguments rely on the observation that many innovations come from unexpected places, and therefore, cannot be anticipated. Therefore, the creative edge of science needs to be left unencumbered by the heavy hand of management needed to assure integration.

Another notion enters into the argument - that is to comply with the standards required to integrate component pieces into a whole hurts the integrity of “the science.” There are two lines that support this. The first line focuses on examples of when attention was directed towards, say, information systems or technology and a product of dubious scientific integrity was produced. The second line is that by the time a particular component, say the algorithm that calculates the rain from thunderstorms, is integrated into an operational weather or climate model that algorithm is no longer state-of-the art. Therefore operational or production models are always a step behind the best science.

These arguments, which have merit, serve to benefit the dominate type of scientific efforts in the U.S. These are the efforts associated with individual scientists, who focus (or reduce) their problems in such a way to isolate something specific and to determine cause and effect. This reductionist approach to investigation is central to the classic scientific method, which has proven to be a very effective method of discovery. The focus on reduction comes at the expense of the path of science that comes from – how do all of the pieces fit together? That is the integrating or unifying path of science. This unifying path requires a synthesis of knowledge. This synthesis does, in fact, lead to new discoveries because when the pieces do not fit together, then we are required to ask – why not? The synthesis of scientific knowledge is also required to, for example, forecast the weather or climate or to adapt to sea level rise.

My ultimate thesis is that a focus on integrated or unified science does not come at the expense of “the science,” and does not undermine the scientific method or the integrity of “the science.”

There are several elements of the scientific method. At the center of it all is testing and checking. In a good scientific paper, most of the text is spent describing the results and how those results were determined to be correct, or at least, convincingly defended. A scrupulous reader looks for independence in the testing and validation; that is, how is unbiased information brought into the research to evaluate the results. Then the paper is subjected to peer review, which is another form of verification. Once a paper is published, it becomes fair game for all to question, and there is, ultimately, a requirement that the result be verified by independent investigation. If the result cannot be reproduced, then there is little acceptance of the result as correct (see Wikipedia Cold Fusion).

This process of checking is ingrained into scientists, and those who develop a sustaining legacy as quality researchers are always expert on how to check results in multiple ways. It is also true that on the individual level, it is ingrained into the scientist to question the results of others. Therefore, at the level of the individual, there is a built in process that does not promote synthesis, integration, or unification. Quite the contrary, what is promoted is the creation of many high quality nuggets of knowledge. These nuggets may or may not fit together to form a consistent body of knowledge.

Returning to the beginning of this article, one message from report after report is the need for the integration of the efforts of climate science to meet the broader needs of the community. This is true for physical climate, where there is the need for integration of knowledge to provide predictive models for assessment of climate change. And, as those who decide to use the information from these models try to make decisions for their investments and their projects, there is a need for the integration of this information with many other sources of information – for example, how big does my drainage pipe need to be? How high should my levee be?

The reports call for better integration, but at the very basis of the culture of research and the use of the scientific method, we value most the rugged individualism of skepticism. How then is integration of research to address societal goals achieved?

If it were easy, if were simply a matter of making sure that all of the right pieces were built, then we would not have 25 years of reports with a cadence of “need more integration.” Perhaps the obvious answer - there needs to be a process or an organization that as a whole honors the principles of the scientific method. This requires, then, a process that builds trust among the individuals of the organization. It requires structuring of checking and validation in a form that supports the transfer of knowledge (and computer code) from one individual to another. It requires the development of validation strategies that test the combined knowledge, the combined algorithms, in a quantitative and repeatable way. This organization is far different than an organization that is comprised on many, individual, excellent scientists. Next, thinking about the scientific organization that we need.


Figure 1: Chaos and order, 2008 Galvanized wire, 60x60x60cm. Barbara Licha, Finalist of Willoughby Sculpture Prize 2009. (from Ultimo Project Studios)

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After a period of rapid melting in the Arctic, it seems that the seasonal melt has started to slow down some.

This is due increased storminess and increased Cloud Cover that has moved over the Arctic.

Member Since: April 1, 2010 Posts: 9 Comments: 2701
Happy Fathers Day, everybody... :)
Member Since: April 1, 2010 Posts: 9 Comments: 2701
This is very interesting from Joseph D'Aleo...


Warmist ‘scientists’ and psuedo-scientists’ are quick to question the role of the sun and oceans in multi-decadal climate changes. You may hear them use La Ninas to explain away cool years and can’t wait for the New Year’s day to end when El Nino’s develop to predict the year will be the warmist ever. They will never admit to the multidecadal cycles in the oceans as these might explain some or most of the warming they want you to believe are the result to your driving SUVs and the burning coal and oil. While Joe Bastardi and I readily admit man has an affect on our climate through factors like urbanization, land use changes, the addition of aerosols, etc, we believe natural factors can’t be neglected. We use them in our forecasting. Let’s look at one of these natural drivers, the PDO today.

The “Pacific Decadal Oscillation” (PDO) is a long-lived El Nino-like pattern of Pacific climate variability according to scientists at JISAO at the University of Washington.

“While the two climate oscillations have similar spatial climate fingerprints, they have very different behavior in time. Fisheries scientist Steven Hare coined the term “Pacific Decadal Oscillation” (PDO) in 1996 while researching connections between Alaska salmon production cycles and Pacific climate (his dissertation topic with advisor Robert Francis).

Two main characteristics distinguish PDO from El Nino/Southern Oscillation (ENSO): first, 20th century PDO “events” persisted for 20-to-30 years, while typical ENSO events persisted for 6 to 18 months; second, the climatic fingerprints of the PDO are most visible in the North Pacific/North American sector, while secondary signatures exist in the tropics - the opposite is true for ENSO.

Several independent studies find evidence for just two full PDO cycles in the past century: “cool” PDO regimes prevailed from 1890-1924 and again from 1947-1976, while “warm” PDO regimes dominated from 1925-1946 and from 1977 through (at least) the mid-1990’s. Shoshiro Minobe has shown that 20th century PDO fluctuations were most energetic in two general periodicities, one from 15-to-25 years, and the other from 50-to-70 years.”

The PDO index is derived as the leading PC of monthly SST anomalies in the North Pacific Ocean. It was found while researchers at the University of Washington were trying to find reasons why salmon fisheries exhibited a distinct multidecadal behavior.

The landmark paper can be found here: Mantua, N.J. and S.R. Hare, Y. Zhang, J.M. Wallace, and R.C. Francis,1997: A Pacific interdecadal climate oscillation with impacts on salmon production. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 78, pp 1069-1079.

Their abstract:

Evidence gleaned from the instrumental record of climate data identifies a robust, recurring pattern of ocean-atmosphere climate variability centered over the mid-latitude Pacific basin. Over the past century, the amplitude of this climate pattern has varied irregularly at interannual-to-interdecadal time scales. There is evidence of reversals in the prevailing polarity of the oscillation occurring around 1925, 1947, and 1977; the last two reversals correspond with dramatic shifts in salmon production regimes in the North Pacific Ocean. This climate pattern also affects coastal sea and continental surface air temperatures, as well as streamflow in major west coast river systems, from Alaska to California.

The ENSO and PDO climate patterns are clearly related, both spatially and temporally, to the extent that the PDO may be viewed as ENSO-like interdecadal climate variability (Tanimoto et al. 1993; ZWB). While it may be tempting to interpret interdecadal climatic shifts as responses to individual (tropical) ENSO events, it seems equally conceivable that the state of the interdecadal PDO constrains the envelope of interannual ENSO variability.”

The authors made no claim as to which (PDO or ENSO) was the chicken and which the egg.

“The ENSO and PDO climate patterns are clearly related, both spatially and temporally, to the extent that the PDO may be viewed as ENSO-like interdecadal climate variability (Tanimoto et al. 1993; ZWB). While it may be tempting to interpret interdecadal climatic shifts as responses to individual (tropical) ENSO events, it seems equally conceivable that the state of the interdecadal PDO constrains the envelope of interannual ENSO variability.”

Indeed you can see clearly they similarity of the ENSO and the PDO in ‘ocean temperature distribution’ in the two positive PDO Index and El Nino and negative PDO and La Nina.

Member Since: April 1, 2010 Posts: 9 Comments: 2701
№ 200

Quoting Neapolitan:
"All those...scientists with their fancy-shmancy degrees in climatology"

Just how many of the scientists that you are referring to do you think actually have any sort of degree in "climatology"?

* * *


By the way, a happy Father's Day to all.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
My mind is truly reeling.

In between those who refer to themselves in the third person and haven't quite mastered the fine art of paragraph spacing; those who have allowed themselves to be misled into believing that Big Energy shills and right-wing talk radio hosts can be trusted to know and tell the truth about the climate, instead of all those moronic scientists with their fancy-schmancy degrees in climatology; those who don't understand the GDP, or the effective tax rate, or the unvarnished political truth; those who continue to insist that there was such a thing as "climategate" even after numerous objective investigations have cleared everyone involved of wrongdoing (except for the thieves who broke the law by stealing the emails in the first place); the normal contingent of homophobic trolls; the uber-obsessed who continue to claim without a shred of proof (or reality) that I'm a multi-handled entity; and--of course--those who have their hands firmly clamped over their ears and eyes when it comes to the thousands of climate signals around them, I could barely wade through the blather posted on this page yesterday.

I'll say this: you guys make me laugh, though I do feel bad for guys like McBill, whose many excellently lucid attempts at imparting a little knowledge about corporate taxation would have been no less beneficial had he simply written everything on paper and flushed it down the drain. Sadly, there are a few members here who are denialists in the extreme. Contrarians. Not skeptical of the science, they have simply taken a firm political stance and have gotten so comfortable with that stance that they will never consider any piece of evidence that they feel will move them from their comfort zone. It's an increasingly lonely place to be, of course, but, like Flat Earthers, there is comfort in their numbers, so we're sure to have them with us forever.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 15336
Quoting AlabamaWx85:

Dead on.

It's like they're grasping on to something that doesn't exist. It doesn't exist. Not in reality, anyway.

Someone oughta do them a favor and wake them up from their cushy dream.

Makes ya wonder, does it not?

Gnight all, make it a great day tomorrow and all that follow!

Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8222
Wow, lots of stuff in here tonight.

Where to begin?

If asked, we were told (by Neo) 120% of the warming was man made. No, that is right..... he said it more than once

Second is a question..... How many people actually pay taxes in the US as a percentage of the population?

Next, lets consider the GDP part of the referenced tax equation with a question. How big is our GDP compared to the others and then lets talk about population, business profit margins, spending deficits , and ,,,,, why am I wasting my time talking about this?

Logic will always prevail over spin and falsehood.

Just sayin, every time!

Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8222
Quoting AlabamaWx85:

IPCC, leading the industry. Like leading the blind. Let me tell you. I used to have an old t-shirt. Oh, it get torn and frayed and worn out over the years, and mama would tell me to throw it out. It read, beer in, (with an arrow pointing toward you mouth), and beer out, (well, you know). It was my price possession. But I tell you, those climate models I continue to see are just that. Garbage in, garbage out. In due time, I think the picture will become quite clear as to how much hype and nonsense this AWG is about.

The really funny part is, is that some CAGW Proponents still want to cite the IPCC as their "evidence" and they somehow manage to ignore all of the infinate fraud that lies within the IPCC.
Member Since: April 1, 2010 Posts: 9 Comments: 2701
Quoting GiovannaDatoli:

Oh AlabamaWx. My my my. Glenn Beck sure is doing a fabulous job over there at Fox educating you. Truly gifted man he is. But if you're just another one of those who understands climate change and the anthropogenic effects of CO2 from the likes of Glenn and Anthony Watts, I'm truly sorry. ;-)

The truth is--and has been documented by NASA and thousands of climate scientists is that the globe is warming, and rapidly. And the global extremes that are occurring will only become that of, more extreme. Sure, we can buy into the never-ending propaganda of what Big Oil, the GOP, and the fossil fuel industry wants you to believe. But I, tend to believe science, and also have a genuine interest in protecting the globe from harm others seem to want to impose. The rest is simply banter from denialists that seems to be falling upon deaf ears. Nothing more, nothing less.

Anything new to add...? Nope. Didn't think so.
Member Since: April 1, 2010 Posts: 9 Comments: 2701

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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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