2011-06-16 13:57:06Uncertainty in Global Warming Science
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
121.222.9.229

Guest post by Hugo Franzen. Feedback welcome:

http://www.skepticalscience.com/Uncertainty-in-Global-Warming-Science.html

2011-06-16 14:28:52A bit of visual needed
Glenn Tamblyn

glenn@thefoodgallery.com...
58.166.19.243

I agree with the thrust of the article although it is a bit dry

 

Perhaps a graphic of Type A, B & C science. Maybe a house with foundations (A), walls (B) and a roof (C). With examples of each type. And the caption 'If a roof tile is broken, does that mean the house will fall down?'

2011-06-17 11:26:49
hfranzen

hfranzen@iastate...
174.124.82.31

Right on! and certainly not dry.

2011-06-18 00:35:24Precision and Accuracy
John Hartz
John Hartz
john.hartz@hotmail...
98.122.98.161

Franzen uses the words "precision" and "accuracy" interchangeably. From a scientific/engineering perspective, the two words have distinct meanings.

In the fields of science, engineering, industry and statistics, the accuracy[1] of a measurement system is the degree of closeness of measurements of a quantity to that quantity's actual (true) value. The precision[1] of a measurement system, also called reproducibility or repeatability, is the degree to which repeated measurements under unchanged conditions show the same results.[2] Although the two words can be synonymous in colloquial use, they are deliberately contrasted in the context of the scientific method.

Source: "Accuracy and precision" Wikipedia

2011-06-18 19:32:24
Rob Painting
Rob
paintingskeri@vodafone.co...
118.93.2.177

hfranzen, 

- Funny that you mention a Mars lander - given that ginormous clusterfrack with the Mars probe a few years ago. The one where metric and imperial units were interchanged, and the probe later face-planted on the martian surface.  

- You use the term "denier" in your post, is that still a no-no here?

- Graphics like Glenn has suggested would be good.

- I like it. 

2011-06-19 06:31:18
hfranzen

hfranzen@iastate...
174.124.122.242

To Bagersouth's:  I see what you are saying, but I would say that the technical definitions you give are for measurements and measurement systems, i.e. are essentially statistical concepts as you define them. It seems to me that to say that Type A science allows the calculation of a single result, such as the increase in temperature of the earth that wiould be caused by the known increase in carbon dioxide during a given time period, with high precision or with high accuracy can be stated interchangably without ambiguity. For example, I would say that to say Newton's equations allow the calculation of a trajectory with high precision or with high accuracy is to say essentially the same thing.  If I am wrong and there is a way to correctly choose between these two I would certainly appreciate being corrected. 

2011-06-19 08:49:50hfranzen
John Hartz
John Hartz
john.hartz@hotmail...
98.122.98.161

I wanted to bring this definitional issue to everyone's attention. In the context of your article, using the two terms interchangeably appears to be appropriate.

2011-06-19 08:52:35Recommendation
John Hartz
John Hartz
john.hartz@hotmail...
98.122.98.161

Break-up the long paragraphs into shorter paragraphs and use bullet points where appropriate.  

2011-06-20 00:58:11
hfranzen

hfranzen@iastate...
174.124.122.242

Thanks.  I would lke to respond by breaking it up a bit with bullets as suggested, but I cannot see how to edit the essay

2011-06-20 06:35:30hfranzen
Daniel Bailey
Daniel Bailey
yooper49855@hotmail...
97.83.150.37

Can you go here?:

http://www.skepticalscience.com/sksadmin.php?Action=EditForm&TableName=news&UniqueIdentifier=808

 

If you can, than that is the editing window for the article in question.  As the listed author, you should be able to access the page.

If not, let us know here and one of us (dana, John or I) will look into it.

2011-06-21 00:44:16
hfranzen

hfranzen@iastate...
174.124.124.71

No, I can't get there.  I have forgotten my password and user name.  I can get to the link in John's comment at the top of this list but am not able to edit the essay there.  Thanks.

2011-06-21 02:31:50
Daniel Bailey
Daniel Bailey
yooper49855@hotmail...
97.83.150.37

I have sent you an email to the email address you used to log into SkS: hfranzen@iastate.edu

The email has your logon ID and the password you used to log into SkS

2011-06-21 06:53:32
hfranzen

hfranzen@iastate...
174.124.124.71

Thanks. They are as i remembered them. I tried agaun and fasiled.   The message said that I did not have access.  I am sorry this is truning out to be so much trouble,  Thanks for your help.  Fritz

2011-06-21 08:19:23Try this
Daniel Bailey
Daniel Bailey
yooper49855@hotmail...
97.83.150.37

No trouble only in that I can't figure out why you can't open a post you are listed as the author of.

Try this: 

  • Log out of SkS
  • log back in
  • Go to here, click on the Blogs option and then select your blog post for editing

That should allow you to access the blog post for editing (I upgraded you to full author)

2011-06-22 08:16:09
hfranzen

hfranzen@iastate...
174.124.77.40

I must ask for more help, I did exactly what you suggest and I get a copy of my essay on my PC but am unable to edit it .

2011-06-22 08:53:55Editing your blog post
hfranzen

hfranzen@iastate...
121.222.9.229

Hugo, I've done a test, logged in as hfranzen and gone to Author Admin and it all seems to be working okay. You should be able to edit your blog post here:

http://www.skepticalscience.com/admin_author.php?Action=EditBlogForm&BlogId=808

Do you see an edit form here with your article in the form?

2011-06-23 01:23:44
hfranzen

hfranzen@iastate...
174.124.77.40

Thanks.  I am sorry to be so obtuse, but almost all of the techniques of blogs have been developed since my 70th birthday and I have to agree that it is "difficult to teach an old dog new tricks". None-the-less I do think the suggested editing has improved the clarity of my essay and I am grateful for the comments.  Apparently there are not many coments coming in, however I want to say that the essay deals with an issue that I find extremely frustrating, namely a climate scientist arguing with a denier about science that I characterise as Type B or C  (and in my view almost always having a valid argument), but with the clear supposition being made on the other side of the argument that if they can prove this or that detail wrong the whole idea of global warming collapses.  I read the discussions and I want to cry out, "For heavens sake it makes no differeence to the basic concept whether this is a valid criticism or not. Let's move on to finding solutions!"  Which is what SkS is all about and to my way of thinking, along with the book "Climate Change Denial" is attacking the most imprtant issue of our yime.  Many thanks for all you do!

2011-06-23 06:43:58
Daniel Bailey
Daniel Bailey
yooper49855@hotmail...
97.83.150.37

I made some minor tweaks and added some pictures for eye candy/readability.

The only major suggestion I might make (and feel free to ignore it) is that you begin by using "we" and switch over to the personal "I".  I know it's important to distinguish in this case that it's your opinion being served up here, but usage of the personal tense coupled with the use of the word denier will certainly be off-putting to some (mostly the denialists).  And that's not necessarily a bad thing.  I just wanted to point it out for consideration.

As it currently stands:


Uncertainty in Global Warming Science

Posted on 15 June 2011 by hfranzen

Since the time of Kepler and Galileo there Galileohas been steady progress in the precision with which humans can predict the outcome of kinematic events.  As is well known, major advances were made by Newton and Einstein and today we can predict with extraordinary accuracy the trajectory of an object traveling with a known velocity under the influence of gravitational forces. 

This does not mean that the trajectory of a rocket traveling to Mars, for example, is known with absolute precision but is to some extent uncertain.  In part this uncertainty is introduced both by our inability to determine the velocity with perfect precision and by the perturbations of gravitational effects arising from  more distant objects.  

KeplerTherefore it is correct to say,  even in this very well understood case, that the results of the scientific calculation are “uncertain”.  Such uncertainty is a reality in all scientific calculations and those who depend upon the results of such calculations must be aware of this fact.  However in cases of the character of rocket trajectory calculations the uncertainties themselves are understood such that we can be very certain that a rocket meant to go to Mars will arrive there barring some unforeseen catastrophe such as an engine failure or a giant solar flare.

In the same fashion there are many areas in our lives (communication, GPS, air traffic control, cat scans, MRI, internal combustion, electric generation and transmission, radar, computer automation, etc.)  that depend upon the results of science and have associated with them uncertainties  that are both known and known to be negligible in terms of  the particular application to which the relevant science (electromagnetism, quantum mechanics, classical mechanics , etc.) is applied.  This is simply to state an obvious fact of our lives in the 21st century. In this essay I will distinguish between three types of science,

  • What I have briefly described above is a type of science that I will, for convenience, call Type A. I will take science to be of Type A if, in principal, the uncertainty in the result and the uncertainty in that uncertainty can be numerically calculated and the relative uncertainties in each can be determined to be less than some set percentage.
  • For me, then, Type B science depends on equations that are less precisely constrained than in Type A science.  In the case of Type B science there is difficulty in defining quantities and boundary conditions.  The equations in Type B science  cannot be solved with the same precision as for Type A and, equally important, the uncertainty in the uncertainty is frequently unknown.  An example of a result of Type B science is the prediction of weather.  We may be told, for example, that  there is a 75% chance of rain in our area. This “prediction” is based upon the understanding that meteorologists have of the basic equations governing the movement of air masses , the changes of temperature and pressure with such movement and the condensation of water  vapor, however the conditions limiting the equations in this case, the boundary conditions, are not so precisely defined and  the objects to which the equations apply not so well defined as in the previous cases.

The conclusions of Type B science have a much greater range of relative uncertainty than for Type A. The 25% uncertainty suggested by the 75% probability would of course be totally unacceptable in a Type A calculation of, say, the osmotic pressure of an injected serum or the probability of a mid-air collision. Furthermore, the uncertainty in that 25% uncertainty in the weather itself is, from everyday experience, quite a bit larger than would be acceptable for placing a lander on Mars or determining the locations of neighboring planes in the vicinity of an airport.  This, by the way, is not to demean meteorology – given the complexity of the problem the meteorologists do a marvelous job!

  • Then there is Type C science.    A major tool of what I call Type C science is curve fitting.  One seeks to fit a curve  to data using parameters with no apriori physical meaning,  but that provide the smallest residual “error” .  In many cases it is the best that can be done, but the results are inevitably open to doubt.  An example is the growth of a population with time where an observer fits the data to a population vs. time curve and uses this to interpolate or extrapolate populations to times for which measurements are not available.  Such curves are always open to question even though in the hands of  skilled observers they may be used to reach significant conclusions (examples of Type C science are Malthus' population prediction and the Keeling Curve).

Now, finally, I will turn my attention to global warming.  My concern in this essay is that science of all three types is applied to global warming and frequently, when the validity of conclusions is under discussion, no distinction is made between the three types of science.  Taking the earth’s temperature as a function of time as an example, many deniers have focused on the uncertainties associated with the interpretation of tree ring or ice core data.  In my view this is acceptable to a certain extent.  Skepticism is a healthy component of scientific analysis and I believe that those who have made the measurements and compiled the data can and do adequately defend their conclusions.  But it is my personal view that global warming is based first and foremost upon the conclusion of Type A science (the interaction of the earth’s  Planck radiation with the rot-vib modes of atmospheric carbon dioxide and the experimental and theoretical determination of the extent of this interaction ). It is also my view that only upon the basis of Type A science is one able evaluate the Type C science inherent in fitting the earth’s temperature to time. 

A major problem, as I see it, is that when deniers question the Type C science without coming to grips with the underlying Type A science they can deceive themselves and others into believing that they are attacking the basic structure of global warming science whereas in reality they are just dealing with a detail in the superstructure. They may in fact be dealing with a detail within a detail, e.g. selecting for discussion a particular subset of data (“cherry picking”). On the other hand to deny the Type A science showing global warming without finding a flaw in the argument (see hfranzen.org for a basic discussion of the effect without feedbacks or interferences) is like saying , ”I accept almost all of mathematics but deny the validity of Euler’s Theorem”. Just as it would make sense to deny Euler’s Theorem only if one could disprove it, it makes no sense to deny global warming science without finding a logical flaw in the Type A science demonstrating GW while, as I claim almost everyone does, accepting the myriad results of Type A science that come into play in our daily lives. And further it makes no sense to attack the average earth temperature vs. time (hockey-stick) curve without first coming to grips with the Type A science of GW.  To my way of thinking the hockey stick is not the basis of GW science, it is derivative and confirmatory, and its basic correctness depends upon the fundamental Type A science underlying the temperature changes.

The gist of what I am saying is this – when deniers confront an issue dealing with Type C science they should be asked to first consider the question, “Do you accept the basic  conclusion of quantum mechanics and spectroscopy that global warming is occurring  right now?” If their answer is “no” than it seems to me that  it is Type A science that should be debated before tackling the Type C science.  If their answer is yes, then, importantly, it is not possible for them to take the fact of the debate as a demonstration that the major thrust of the science of global warming is basically flawed. Furthermore any discussion of some aspect of the Type C science can be meaningfully limited to the relevant issue without  trying to discuss the larger question of the validity of the underlying GW proposition.

In short, if a denier disputes the claims of the hockey stick and is unwilling to accept the basic science of absorption of infra-red radiation by carbon dioxide then it is fruitless to discuss the hockey stick with that denier.  On the other hand if they accept the basic science but deny the hockey stick then it can be worthwhile exploring  their concerns  and pointing out that the hockey stick result follows straightforwardly, if not rigorously, from the known increasing energy input into the earth.  In the discussion that follows they might  be able to present some basis for criticism of the hockey stick curve beyond the fact that they simply don’t want to believe in global warming, and if the criticism is valid this would be a win-win situation.

2011-06-23 06:45:19
Daniel Bailey
Daniel Bailey
yooper49855@hotmail...
97.83.150.37

Hmmm, the formatting in this window leaves something to be desired...

Next fix.

2011-06-23 10:21:44Applied some fixes myself
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
121.222.9.229

There were some undesirable blockquotes which I just removed:

http://www.skepticalscience.com/Uncertainty-in-Global-Warming-Science.html

2011-06-24 03:48:23
hfranzen

hfranzen@iastate...
174.124.127.40

Thanks for the help!  I think I am consistent in using "we" when I am dealing with the concepts that I learned many years ago and in using "I" when dealing with, for example, my scheme of classifying science into types. I do this becuase I do not wish to imply, for example, that there are others who accept my classification but I do want to state that there is a body of basic mechanics, quantum mechanics, spectroscopy, thermodynamics and eletrodynamics upon which not only is there broad agreement, but upon the use of which the modern world totally depends for the continuation of our lives as we have come to live them. 

2011-06-27 13:24:39
Rob Painting
Rob
paintingskeri@vodafone.co...
118.92.111.139

What's the deal with this post? according to the pageviews it's increased by over 4000 in a day! Something screwy going on, or has it been linked to somewhere else? 

2011-06-27 14:50:11
dana1981
Dana Nuccitelli
dana1981@yahoo...
71.137.108.93

Yeah it must have been linked somewhere with some good traffic.  I'm not seeing anything obvious with a quick Google search though.

2011-06-27 22:27:43
rustneversleeps
George Morrison
george.morrison2@sympatico...
174.91.125.14

Here's a linking site that my Google search turns up:

http://theconspiracyindex.com/2011/06/26/uncertainty-in-global-warming-science/

It's about bigfoot, UFO's, 9/11 conspiracy, etc. - and, ugh, appears to be linking to a lot of skepticalscience articles (maybe based on misreadings based on the headlines alone??...):

http://theconspiracyindex.com/

Welcome

On our site you will find information about UFOs, alien abductions, ghosts, hauntings, secret societies, cults, and ancient civilizations, as well as varying perspectives on climate change, government conspiracies and cover-ups, end of the world predictions and prophecies

2011-06-27 22:56:41
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.47.226

Sounds perfect.

Hope nobody's brain exploded from accidental exposure to facts...