The Empire Blinks

Physicists 100+ years ago were perturbed that the precession of the perihelion of Mercury as predicted by Newtonian mechanics was off by 38 arc seconds (roughly one part in 1/100,000). It took relativity to straighten things out.

None of the climate models mentioned in Science in 2009 [ Science vol. 326 pp. 28 – 29 ’09 (2 Oct ’09 ) ] predicted a pause in warming as long as we are currently experiencing (17 years and counting), even when they were run for a total of 700 years. The longest pause found was 15. They should be run again for many more years with the faster computers of today, to see if they produce the present pause. If not, the models, and their recommendations should be abandoned.

It is a perversion of language to call the absence of continued warming a pause, because this implies (without actually saying so) that the warming will continue after a bit, something for which there is no evidence. Global warming in fact has stopped for 17 years. What it does when there is some sort of change from the stasis, is anyone’s guess. Models which didn’t predict the stasis are of no help.

The mainstream scientific press is finally sitting up and taking notice. This week’s Nature (16 Jan ’14) has an editorial (pp. 261 – 262) and a news item (pp. 276 – 278) concerning the pause. It is claimed that the Pacific is taking up the heat, without heating up much. The heat capacity of water is USED to define the calorie — it is 1 calorie per gram of water — in contrast the heat capacity of methane with the same molecular mass is 1/116th of water. So there’s plenty of heat capacity in the ocean.

Adding a new parameter to explain unexpected results is good science when the system being explained is complex. Consider the additions to the central dogma of molecular biology — introns, exons, microRNAs, ceRNAs, reverse transcription etc. etc. Certainly global climate is equally complex. However, more than a little humility is in order.

This begs the point about whether the ocean as a heat sink was included in the model cited in 2009. If it was, the model had better predict the pause. If it wasn’t and if the latest explanation given for the pause is correct, the model should be thrown out along with its recommendations.

There Is Nothing So Tragic As A Beautiful Theory Destroyed By An Ugly Fact. — Sherlock Holmes

The fact that Nature came to deal with the pause is significant. They were quite defensive when ClimateGate came out — see https://luysii.wordpress.com/2009/12/17/the-empire-strikes-back-nature-on-climategate/

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Comments

  • molengineer  On January 17, 2014 at 11:36 am

    Correction: water (MW = 18) and methane (MW = 16) do not have the same molecular mass. Close enough that the general point is still quite valid.

  • luysii  On January 17, 2014 at 11:40 am

    Quite true. Thanks for picking it up

  • Li Zhi  On January 29, 2014 at 2:45 am

    I get 75- 76 J/(K mol) for water and 34-35 for methane.

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