Chaos, Climate Modeling And Integrated Circuitry

11 03 2007

We all see these sleek, stylish projections about how we’re going to turn the Earth into a charred cinder, but few people ever look at the man behind the curtain. Climate models are spurious for many reasons, yet they are touted around the world as a grim warning of impending doom and chaos. Jerome Shmitt at The American Thinker takes a peek.

Errors can accumulate rapidly. Let’s list some of the factors that must be included (by no means an exhaustive list):

Solar flux
Gravity, Pressure
Temperature
Density
Humidity
Earth’s rotation
Surface temperature
Currents in the Ocean (e.g., Gulf Stream)
Greenhouse gases
CO2 dissolved in the oceans
Polar ice caps
Infrared radiation
Cosmic rays (ionizing radiation)
Earth’s magnetic field
Evaporation
Precipitation
Cloud formation
Reflection from clouds
Reflection from snow
Volcanoes
Soot formation
Trace compounds

And many, many others

Even if mathematics could be developed to accurately model each of these factors, the combined model would be infinitely complex requiring some simplifications. Simplifications in turn amount to judgment calls by the modeler.

That’s the rub… many of these factors are chaotic systems, and simply cannot be “digitized” into integrated circuits. We have a tough time getting the weather right for tomorrow, why do so many people think we can get it right 10, 20, or 50 years from now? Baffling. An essay by F. David Peat cuts to the chase:

To give a technical example, B. Mandelbrot has pointed out that the distribution and number of weather stations has a “lower fractal dimension” than that of any real weather system. This means that, in principle, we can never gather sufficient information to characterize the world’s weather. A tiny degree of uncertainty in a linear system does not really matter– it simply results in a small degree of uncertainty in its future. But for some non-linear systems these uncertainties can increase exponentially; such systems are infinitely sensitive to their initial conditions so that the smallest initial fluctuation soon swamps the system.

Sigh. Unfortunately, these hyped models will probably continue to flood the media, further obfuscating the issue, and bringing us no closer to understanding the root causes of climate change.

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