Climate Projections — The devil is in the details

Some will say – for whatever reason – that the comparison of forecasts or climate projections vs. reality made here is not fair.  For unknown reasons, Facebook did not let me post this commentary.  When I tried, the commentary vanished into the unknown.  Perhaps that is because I used a title for it that had “devil” in it.  Maybe FB’s censorship algorithms deem it improper to use “Climate Projections” or “devil” in a FB posting.  Who knows?  It does not matter, but here is what I had tried to present.

Temperature forecast vs. actual reading

Temperature forecast vs. actual reading
for 2018 01 14 @ 14:00 hrs
Bruderheim, Alberta, Canada (°C)

Given the discrepancies between what was forecast, temperature-wise, for 2 pm today (2018 01 14) and what the reading on our thermometer was at 2 pm today, I have grave reservations regarding any climate modeler’s ability to forecast, predict, or project with any reasonable degree of accuracy what the local, regional or global temperature will be by the end of the century, a hundred years from now or for any time in the future that extends past four days from now.

NASA data cannot even be used to accurately calculate right now what the temperature should be in our backyard, so as to match what our thermometer tells us it is.

Climate projections are next to useless.

Temperature forecasts lack accuracy, compared to actual readings.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am not saying that NASA or anyone else involved in trying to make accurate temperature- or weather-forecasts is doing a bad job of forecasting.  They are doing an excellent job of forecasting accurately for up to four days into the future.  They are doing the best they can with the tools they’ve got.  They can do no better.  The degree of accuracy they achieve is excellent and cannot be any better.  This is as good as it gets, and the accuracy achieved now is for one more day into the future than we could achieve before the advent of supercomputers.  The accuracy is not good.  It is lousy, but it is for one more day into the future, and that is the best that can be done.

Still, making weather or climate forecasts of acceptable accuracy for more than four days into the future is beyond the skills or abilities of anyone who tries to make them. There is a very good reason why climate modelers do not call their predictions of future weather or climate “forecasts” or “predictions.”  They call them “projections.”  The accuracy of projections for any time in the future can be no better than the consequences of applying a number of assumptions permit them to be.  No one knows right now whether those assumptions are sufficiently complete, accurate or precise to produce a specific extent of accuracy or precision of projections that are being made for the end of this century or a hundred years from now.

Besides, none of the predictors making climate projections right now for then will still be around to appreciate or not the credit for a job done well or the criticism of a job that eventually proved to be far off the mark.  So, why should anyone really care right now?  What incentive is there to make projections that come close to reality?  The makers of the projections cannot possibly be made to feel guilty.  They will be long dead by then.  The only parties who have reasons to complain are those who are footing the bills for the expenditures required to make projections that no one now paying for will see coming true or fail to do so.  So, whoever pays for it now really has nothing to complain about, right?  Besides, the precautionary principle employed by those who convince the payers to shell out dictates that it is better to make wrong predictions or predictions that cannot even be questioned than not to make any at all.

Weather- or climate -projections are the result of assumptions of what is needed to accurately project what the weather or climate may be like in the future, provided further assumptions of what assumptions must be made to make accurate projections are correct and that all of those assumptions can be successfully and correctly translated into algorithms that are properly and correctly translated into machine language.  Weather forecasters cannot even predict with reasonable accuracy what the weather conditions will be like five, six and seven days into the future, regardless of their long-range forecasts (which they give special distinction by calling them all sort of things, such as “future casts”) that they present in the smoke-and-mirror dog-and-pony show during the news hour on TV.  Nevertheless, they are being compelled to make those “future casts,” regardless of the fact that they are not good for many things of importance, except for gluing their captive audiences’ attention to the TV for a few more minutes to feed them more commercials while they’ve got their attention.  They do the best they can, but they cannot do better than NASA can, with respect to making accurate forecasts extending past four days, because they use the same data that is being used by NASA.

Climate modelling for periods extending much beyond the four days for which reasonably accurate forecasts can be made is essentially little or no more accurate than the reading of entrails done by shamans for producing predictions or projections of things to come.  Arguably, the activities of shamans to that aim are more environmentally-friendly than those of the climate modelers.

When a shaman is done with the reading of the entrails of the chicken he killed, he still can make chicken soup for himself and feed the chicken’s entrails to his dog.  When  climate modelers’ computers are superseded, the modelers will be left with a large assembly of electronic junk for which they had to pay large sums of money to acquire it and to operate, for which they will receive, when they must dispose of it, at best only a small fraction of the original purchase price.  They cannot even make soup from it, let alone feed any of the remaining refuse to their dogs.

Admittedly, climate modelers are easier to organize than it is to organize thousands of shamans.  It is easier to get climate modelers to use a standard language and normalized expressions than it is to get thousands of shamans to use standardized methods for killing vastly more chickens and using any sort of standardized approach for interpreting chicken entrails, but, hey, shamans can make good use of the remnants of the tools of their trade.  Climate modelers cannot.  That is progress?

At any rate, if anyone disagrees with what I have stated so far, I will without a doubt find out, provided they feel it is worth letting me know.  I don’t think it is worth saying more about the subject than I already did.  However, if anyone knows what climate models are good for, other than the creating of alarms, let me know about it, and tell me as well what acceptable standard was used to reach that judgment.

Nevertheless, don’t take my word for on any of it.  I am no expert and have nothing but common sense to guide me, but there is someone I put my trust in, Dr. Tim Ball, who discusses the history and accuracy of weather- and climate-forecasting in this: Government Weather and Climate Forecasts Are Failures.

Addendum (2018 01 17):
What purpose do climate projections serve?

Climate projection by model simulation

Climate projection by model simulation — Smoke and mirrors?
Apparently not a hindcast but a projection starting out from a 1900 baseline

(More links to articles on climate projections)

Climate projections serve to raise alarm, but

  • They are not forecasts;
  • They are inaccurate and cannot even accurately calculate what the correct temperature at a given time and location should be, so as to match what a temperature reading for a given time and place is or was;
  • They cannot possibly be close to being correct, unless it is by accident;
  • By the end of the century no one who made them now will be around to admit how wrong their climate projections were;
  • They are biased;
  • They cost an extraordinary amount of effort and money to be made, and
  • They are a prime example of government waste.
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