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Ledgers, Graphics, and Carvings

By: Dr. Ricky Rood , 7:47 PM GMT on August 07, 2012

Ledgers, Graphics, and Carvings: Models, Water, and Temperature (4)

This is a series of blogs on models, water, and temperature (see Intro). I am starting with models. In this series, I am trying to develop a way to build a foundation for nonscientists to feel comfortable about models and their use in scientific investigation. I expect to get some feedback on how to do this better from the comments. In order to keep a solid climate theme, I am going to have two sections to the entries. One section will be on models, and the other will be on a research result, new or old, that I think is of particular interest.

Doing Science with Models 1.1: In the previous entry of this series I argued that if one considered the types of models used in design and engineering, then we use models all of the time. In fact, when we build or do just about anything, we use some sort of model to get us started. I ended the previous entry with the example of building a simple picnic bench that would hold three, two-hundred-pound men. Not only do the materials need to be of sufficient strength, but the legs of the bench need to be attached in a way that they form a solid and stable foundation. If the bench wobbles and the legs spread apart, then it will be unsafe. If we have experience of some sort, we construct a model from this experience. For example, if we have built or repaired tables and benches we have some ideas of good and bad construction. If we have no direct experience then we can find or ask about plans. These plans might be a schematic, a graphic model of the bench.

For those who do not build benches, but who, say, balance their checkbooks, there are models as well. The forms in a ledger represent models that have proven usable through practice or that have become standard approaches. Information is collected and organized: the check number, the date, the payee, the amount, the purpose and the category of expenditure.

These graphic, tabular, or touchable models are common enough that we develop intuition about their use. Introductory materials to climate models often use the words “mathematical,” “numerical,” and “computational.” These words take us not only away from our intuitive notions of models, but also into subjects that many of us find difficult and obscure. However, in the past couple of decades we have seen the tabular models of checkbook balancing coded as computational products such as Quicken. Design and architecture move to tools such as Computer-assisted Design. Recently, we have seen this combination of the world of digital models and touchable products come full circle with the advent of three-dimensional printing. In three-dimensional printing, solid objects made of plastic and metal are rendered from mathematical descriptions of the objects. I will return to this idea of mathematical descriptions of objects later. The point that I would like to make now is that using computers as tools to represent the real world has in the last two decades become routine. Therefore, in and of itself, the use of computers to make numerical calculations of the real world is common. It might not be as universally intuitive to people as a ledger or a wooden design of a boat, but there is large body of experience that affirms the value of computer-based modeling.

There are a number of steps that need to be taken from here to climate models. So far, I have been talking about models that are in the spirit of a work or a structure used in testing or perfecting a final product. In climate modeling, the final product of the construction is a model. It is the purpose of that model to provide a credible representation of the climate. That representation has a number of attributes. There is the attribute of representing what we have already observed. There is also the attribute of predicting what we will observe, that is, predicting the future. Therefore, the final product of the whole process is the simulation of and the prediction of the climate.

As with many words, there is more than one definition of model in the dictionary. Another relevant definition from my print edition (third) of the American Heritage Dictionary is “A schematic description of a system, theory, or phenomenon that accounts for its known or inferred properties and may be used for further studies of its characteristics.” (American Heritage Dictionary online) This definition is directly descriptive of a climate model. But like those introductions to climate models that I referred to above, it quickly goes to words like “system” and “theory” that are not quite as intuitive as I would like. This is where I will start next time.

Interesting Research: Attribution of 2011 Extreme Weather to Climate Change - Some might recall in 2011, I wandered into the contentious subject of the attribution of climate change to humans (collected here) and talking about communicating extreme weather events in the media (Shearer and Rood). The paper I highlight in today’s blog is a compilation of efforts to understand the role of planetary warming in some of the extreme events of 2011. The paper is Explaining Extreme Events of 2011 from a Climate Perspective edited by Tom Peterson and others and published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. This paper looks at six of the extreme events of 2011 and tries to attribute, in a variety of ways, the role played by human-caused global warming. (nice summary in New Scientist)

I want to focus on the part of the paper that discusses the extreme heat and drought in Texas in the summer of 2011. Much of that discussion is based on evaluating the effect of sea surface temperature, and specifically, the role of El Nino and La Nina. El Nino and La Nina are the names given to recurring patterns of sea surface temperature distributions in the eastern, tropical Pacific Ocean. The approach to this problem is to use models to make many simulations with sea surface temperature distributions similar to the La Nina conditions of 2011. Simulations were made for times in the 1960s and for the year 2008. The simulations provide an ensemble of many plausible outcomes, and it is possible to investigate the odds of a drought of similar extreme attributes as the 2011 drought occurring in the 1960s. The authors conclude that the warming climate made the 2011 drought 20 times more likely to occur now than in the 1960s. The authors point out that they cannot make statements about absolute probability. That is, they cannot state that in the absence of carbon dioxide increases and associated warming, that the drought would not have occurred.

This approach of using probability to discuss the impact of warming is an active area of research as well as an emerging way to communicate the relation between extreme weather and global warming. In the Washington Post, Jim Hansen has an op-ed piece that describes a paper which was released on Monday, August 6 (reference at end). In this paper Hansen revisits his metaphor that compares extreme weather in a warming climate with playing a dice game with loaded dice. That is, the dice are loaded in a way such that what used to be “extreme” will more likely occur. Going back to the Texas drought, that result mentioned in the previous paragraph says that the dice are loaded so that the extreme attributes of the 2011 drought are 20 times more likely. The takeaway message from Hansen is that we have, so far, underestimated how much the dice are loaded and that we have underestimated the probability of extreme events such as droughts, floods, heat waves, and yes perhaps, persistent cold snaps.


Hansen, Early Edition, PNAS, Perception of Climate Change

Hansen, Perception of Climate Change, Public Summary

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

Reader Comments

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Quoting yoboi:

wow don't let it get to ya...

It didn't. At all.

It's kind of sad watching someone melt down like our friend did. I expect we'll see more of that as those who have painted themselves so thoroughly into the corner realize their predicament.

Hopefully most of those who bought into the denier belief system will find a way to ease themselves out. We're seeing some do it by using processes such as "Well, humans may be playing a role but there's natural forces as well" and "The climate is changing, we're not sure why, but we better start adapting".

If they take those routes they can save face. Those who don't are likely to get pretty emotional. I would expect that years from now there will be a very small, but very well entrenched group of deniers. The Flat Earth Society still hangs on....
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Just back from the NOLA VAMC Socialized Medicine for Vets appt.

Saw a few fellow socialist there as well.

From 3-4 Wars too.
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Quoting yoboi:

i did not know ya were a socialist....but it's cool i don't judge people...

You missed yesterday's fun and games?

After being called a socialist in about 150 posts I've started to suspect myself. I'm thinking about reporting myself to the House Un-American Activities Committee.

Suspicious use of facts. Lack of adequate Jingoism....
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Quoting yoboi:

do we lead with ethenol blending??? looks like germany is leading for new tech for alternate power..

I don't have the data in hand, but we might. Brazil is a big ethanol producer. I don't know who else is in the game.

However leading in ethanol production might be about as good as leading in the number of self-inflicted gun shots to foot.

If we continue to have 'weather weirding' cut into our corn production we may have to kick ethanol to the curb in order to keep food on our tables.

I really think we need to get past the worry over whether the US is "Number 1!!!" and focus on what we need to do to make our country better. We've let so much stuff slip over the years. We've got so many serious problems to solve. Time to act less like football cheerleaders and more like engineers.
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Quoting yoboi:

nice charts Bob....so if i use those charts with the population of the USA, the USA is leading the world per capita with alternate energy use....we are doing our share we are leading...

I'd say that we are not leading the world.

We were in the lead. We were the people who figured out how to harvest sunshine and wind and turn them into electricity, but we let ourselves get passed by a heck of a lot of other countries.

We've given up the lead in installation and now we're giving up manufacturing of what we (largely) invented.

That's what the data tells me.

Of course using data makes me a socialist....
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And here's installed solar per capita. End of 2011 numbers...

If I counted correctly, we're number 22....
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Here's another way to look at how different countries are doing with wind installation. How much of their GDP are they spending on wind? These are the top 33 countries for installed wind power capacity per GDP (numbers are in MW/$1 Billion GDP).

18,468.3 — Denmark
15,854.6 — Portugal
15,152.8 — Spain
9,281.6 — Germany
8,225.1 — Ireland
6,139.2 — Sweden
4,435.9 — China
4,224.0 — New Zealand
4,131.6 — Bulgaria
3,745.1 — Greece
3,305.7 — Netherlands
3,273.0 — Italy
3,265.3 — India
3,059.0 — Austria
3,014.0 — Canada
2,748.9 — USA
2,637.1 — France
2,405.6 — Costa Rica
2,386.0 — UK
2,318.9 — Belgium
2,142.0 — Australia
1,873.9 — Morocco
1,832.1 — Romania
1,726.0 — Norway
1,565.8 — Hungary
1,542.8 — Poland
1,389.3 — Turkey
1,139.5 — Tunisia
1,104.0 — Egypt
1,064.8 — Finland
825.1 — Czech Republic
667.8 — Chile
640.4 — Taiwan
534.7 — Japan
426.7 — Brazil
334.9 — Mexico
260.1 — South Korea
110.7 — Iran
94.9 — Argentina
94.2 — Philippines

Seems to me that we've got plenty of room to try harder.
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Quoting yoboi:

nice charts Bob....so if i use those charts with the population of the USA, the USA is leading the world per capita with alternate energy use....we are doing our share we are leading...

Let's look at installed wind per capita...

680.3 — Denmark
444.6 — Spain
344.8 — Portugal
333.3 — Germany
308.9 — Ireland
245.9 — Australia
238.4 — Sweden
133.3 — Netherlands
129.6 — USA
124.6 — New Zealand
123.1 — Austria
118.8 — Canada
115.4 — Estonia
112.4 — Greece
95.4 — Italy
94.3 — Norway
87.4 — Belgium
87.4 — France
83.5 — UK
74.4 — Cyprus
52.5 — Bulgaria
43.4 — Lithuania
37.5 — Finland
33.6 — China
30.3 — Armenia
29.5 — Hungary
28.8 — Poland
27.2 — Costa Rica
22.5 — Taiwan
21.1 — Czech Republic
21.0 — Romania
19.8 — Croatia
18.2 — Japan
17.1 — Turkey
11.1 — India
10.7 — Nicaragua
10.3 — Chile
9.0 — Morocco
7.8 — South Korea
6.8 — Egypt
4.6 — Brazil
4.6 — Mexico
1.9 — Ukraine
1.5 — Argentina
1.2 — Iran

Now these numbers are based on 2010 totals, so rankings will be changing.
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Bill McKibben's Thought Bubble: The Fight of Our Time

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Quoting Snowlover123:
Neapolitan, when you compare the temperature trend rate of Minneapolis and Miami, you may be comparing noise with noise. Generally, the Polar regions are expected to warm fastest with climate change due to Arctic Amplification, which occurs with any climate change.
Well, since you're the one who originally asked the question about the temperature in Minneapolis vs. Miami, I thought the two were fair game. Is it valid for you to point out that insolation is higher in Miami and that's why it's hotter, yet simultaneously invalid for me to point out that GhGs are causing Minneapolis to warm at a more rapid pace than Miami?
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795. vanwx
Dear Friends, Can we please get back to talking climate. I know 'trollology' is distracting but sea level, hurricanes and drouth will kill us. What ever Koch sends is just 'noise'. We should be honored that against us few interested peeps; musta cost a fortune. But, I know there are climate questions to talk about and the clown is just streering us off course.
We have at least a trillion un-expected tons of fresh water from Greenland.The denialists are saying that co2 oceans provide just as much food and are 'healthy' eco-systems. I see Siberian peat smoke every day in my harbor 10,000 kms away.Snolover wants us to talk about obscure and easily disproven 'celestial cycles',.
I say the blog belongs to students and not some 300 page /hour denilist.
I know that Sno has plenty of room here to set up his own blog. I should not have to deal with Sno's employment contracts; I've learned a lot here on this board but it wasn't from Sno. Without the Siberian peat fires this summer's melt out would have been worse and this is the worst melt out in history.
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(duplicate comment deleted)
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Quoting RevElvis:
California Governor Jerry Brown launches website to rebut climate change skeptics

Cali.gov Link

Climate change poses an immediate and growing threat to California's economy, environment, and to public health. California%u2019s groundbreaking efforts are helping reduce greenhouse gases emissions, which are warming the planet. The state is also taking action to prepare for the unavoidable impacts of climate change, including the increased likelihood of both flooding and drought.

While California is taking action, some of those who oppose the move to renewable energy and cleaner transportation have mischaracterized the science of climate change in an effort to create artificial uncertainty about the existence and causes of climate change.

The fact is that on the key issues, the science is clear: climate change is real and happening now; human-made greenhouse gas emissions are affecting our planet; and we need to take action. Just as we reached a point where we stopped debating whether cigarette smoke causes cancer, we need to end the climate change debate and focus on how to solve the problem.

We have compiled the key facts about climate science, the expert consensus, and some of the common arguments from and responses to those who spread doubt and confusion to prevent action:

This is very good, although these days I'm pretty much permanently pissed at Jerry for excessive catering to the anti-tax crowd and the attempt to revive Pat Brown's infrastructure glory days with high speed rail and the new peripheral canal. And of course he has to get some credit for maintaining the momentum on state climate policy generally, which is more than any other state is doing even though it falls far short of what's needed.
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Quoting Some1Has2BtheRookie:
Snowlover123, I was going to respond to your post on page 6 of this blog. When I went back to quote it I had found that all of page 6 seems to have been lost in the game of Whach-a-Mole that admin was forced to play.

I do remember the jest of the conversation. You also did not think that I had replied to one of your questions to me. That question was answered in post #314.

The rest of your post dealt with solar influences and CO2. I will respond to each, in two separate posts. I will first respond to the solar influences and then to the CO2, at a later time. The hour is too close to my preferred bedtime to post the responses to you now. ... Fair enough?

Surely it's not the case, Rookie, that all of this didn't already get answered? Unless you're quite sure it's new material relative to this and the prior thread, please don't bother.

I notice some actual new science got posted just upthread by RevElvis. Why not discuss that?
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An article on which countries are likely to get hurt most by climate change.

I'll throw this in as a place keeper. Perhaps one of us can do a bit of a summary tomorrow.


And an atlas on the same subject...

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Fresh Water Breathes Fresh Life Into Hurricanes


ScienceDaily (Aug. 13, 2012) — An analysis of a decade's worth of tropical cyclones shows that when hurricanes blow over ocean regions swamped by fresh water, the conditions can unexpectedly intensify the storm. Although the probability that hurricanes will hit such conditions is small, ranging from 10 to 23 percent, the effect is potentially large: Hurricanes can become 50 percent more intense, researchers report in a study appearing this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition.

These results might help improve predictions of a hurricane's power in certain regions. Such conditions occur where large river systems pour fresh water into the ocean, such as by the Amazon River system, the Ganges River system, or where tropical storms rain considerably, as in the western Pacific Ocean.

"Sixty percent of the world's population lives in areas affected by tropical cyclones," said ocean scientist Karthik Balaguru at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. "Cyclone Nargis killed more than one hundred and thirty eight thousand people in Burma in 2008. We can predict the paths cyclones take, but we need to predict their intensity better to protect people susceptible to their destructive power."
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The Amazon Rainforest Gets Half Its Nutrients From a Single, Tiny Spot in the Sahara

The Atlantic

2006 Article

The Amazon basin is one of the world's wondrous ecosystems, supporting massive amounts of life, both in kind and quantity. You might have thought about poison frogs or monkeys, but you've probably never stopped to wonder, "Where are all the nutrients that power this biotic explosion coming from?"

The answer is actually astonishing and delightful in that one-planet-one-love kind of way. As laid out in a 2006 paper that science writer Colin Schultz dug up, nearly half of the nutrients that power the Amazon come from a valley in the Sahara called the Bodélé depression. At 17,100 square miles, the area is about a third of the size of Florida or 0.5 percent the size of the Amazon basin it supplies.

"This depression is a unique dust source due to its location at a bottle neck of two large magmatic formations that serves as a `wind lens', guiding and focusing the surface winds to the Bodélé," the authors, an international team of geologists, wrote.
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Quoting Some1Has2BtheRookie:

David, I do not get the same sense as you do that this was a performance by Snowlover123. Throughout all of his(?) posts he maintained a level of civility and maturity that would tells me that this type of behavior is too far beneath him to act so childishly. I do have a suspect in mind, but I am unable to prove it to be true. The behavior exhibited by this childlike character is more in the form of of CAT5Hurricane. He is a former blogger that use to post here and exhibit the same behavior. He once claimed that he has 100 handles and only about a 3rd of them had been banned already. ... Good news, huh?

Also, one of the tricks of such spammer is to copy the same misspellings and nuances of another blogger in order to shift suspension as to who it is. ... Snowlover123 may not be innocent, but I do not think him guilty of this charge. .... I could be wrong, but I do not believe that I am.

Well whoever they are, they've got some growing up to do.

Xulonn, I take it all back. You're right. There's definitely some sociopathic tendencies on the denialist side.
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Quoting OldLeatherneck:
Message to Stormchaser43!!

You're beginning to upset an Old Marine and that is never a wise thing to do...

First rule in joint service exercises: NEVER get the Marines angry...

Try not to let it bother you. Whoever he/she is, they're just a brat. Anyone who questions the patriotism of a loyal Marine HAS to be a teenage brat. That, or a very stupid adult.
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Quoting BobWallace:
You know, the first time someone explained to me what socialism was I thought it a junk idea and haven't wavered from that position over these many decades. But following this afternoon's fun perhaps it would be appropriate have a group singing of L'Internationale.

I don't know how it goes, but if someone else can kick it off, I'll try to hum along....


(Behavior deteriorates to the level of the consequences. That's why socialism always fails.)

Oh Darn Bob, I was going to buy you two beers if you showed up in your Mao Jacket!

Seriously, this blog needs the immediate attention of senior management.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
You know, the first time someone explained to me what socialism was I thought it a junk idea and haven't wavered from that position over these many decades. But following this afternoon's fun perhaps it would be appropriate have a group singing of L'Internationale.

I don't know how it goes, but if someone else can kick it off, I'll try to hum along....


(Behavior deteriorates to the level of the consequences. That's why socialism always fails.)
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Stormchaser43 came back as Strommchaser43

His IP address needs to be blocked!
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Quoting Some1Has2BtheRookie:

The coolest Southern Hemisphere since 2004 is not a very large time frame. You could not show any trend from that. ... Now the 3rd warmest July on record for the Northern Hemisphere is much more notable.

The southern hemisphere had it's 23rd warmest July in 2012, averaging to July 2012 being globally the 13th warmest July on record.

This is amazingly consistent with the plateau in temperatures we have had over the last 10 or so years.

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Quoting Some1Has2BtheRookie:
Admin has a powerful eraser! Excellent!

But he keeps coming back....this is the worst, most infantile spamming incident I've ever seen on the Web. He needs to be permanently blocked.

This attack make me think the well paid Denialist Industry is getting scared.

If you thought Neapolitan was agitated when he declared war on the Denialists, you ain't seen nothing yet!!
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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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