Forecasting Climate Change Is A Very Complex Process

By Howard Lowe – Re-Blogged From

Mother Earth is a dynamic place, constantly changing and evolving. Although it operates in a cyclical manner, the major cycles are not short, falling into a time frame of thousands, tens of thousands, and hundreds of thousands of years. We know that the Sun rises in the east and sets in the west on a regular 24-hour cycle, but times vary depending on the season of the year. The Earth revolves around the Sun, and the Moon around the Earth, all in a cyclical predictable manner. These phenomena have always intrigued man leading him to seek more knowledge about his surroundings, about the star-filled skies, about his origin, about the future.

For more than a hundred thousand years man has developed into a sophisticated creature, one with ever increasing scientific ‘know how’. Even after landing on the Moon man still dreams of worlds far beyond Earth and the Moon, and plans journeys into deep space. In preparation, he studies all manner of sciences to increase his knowledge of this home planet. One such effort deals with studies Earth’s past and present climates, and lastly prediction of future climates.

You will discover predicting long range climatic conditions have about the same chance of success as selecting next week’s six winning lottery numbers. Let’s look at weather. How about predicting the exact local rainfall next week? The dates, number, violence, and exact paths of Atlantic hurricanes for next season? Acquiring the skills and knowledge to predict such future climate and weather conditions with any degree of accuracy is still out into the future. To do so will require extremely complex data bases. Even then, random variance will hamper predictive capability. Data bases must include carefully controlled collections of geological, geophysical, meteorological, oceanographic, and biological information. Even though, the collection of data has vastly improved, the density and location of measurement sites in the oceans are still a weak link. However, the volume of data being collected by satellites is overcoming many of these weaknesses.

Many laymen and some scientists tend to over simplify this extremely complex problem. Let’s take a step back and look at the hundreds of different data types that must be collected and analyzed. Mathematical models are designed and constructed using formulae to massage and analyze data sets. The fewer the data points, the less reliable the answers. How about the reliability of the data? For example, only during the past century has accurate data been systematically recorded and collected on such things as temperature, rainfall, snowfall, flood, tides, and wind. Although a great deal of data was collected for many centuries, it was not done in a systematic manner, nor did it cover broad geographic regions. Therefore, much of these data are questionable due to poor collection practices; and in the less populated areas, collection sites are sparse, widely scattered, or non-existent.

How can ancient artifacts and cave drawings assist us in studying climate? Paleolithic cave drawings made over 40,000 years ago offer information on climatic conditions at that period of time, and must be considered. Later in time, written records from early civilizations offer information on crops, floods, droughts, snowfall, and detailed accounts of natural catastrophes. Additionally, archeological and anthropological sciences add valuable information about prehistory climates.

Rocks in the Earth’s crust carry a record of global climate changes. Over the past two centuries, geologists have been able to decipher a lot of the story rocks tell us. These geological studies have given us a good ‘peek’ at the Earth’s climatic conditions over hundreds of millions of years. Geological data have been collected and analyzed for thousands of specific locations, making it possible to determine the geological age of rocks, along with their fossil content. However, there are millions of such locations scattered across the globe that have never been examined by geologists. Even a huge organized effort cannot search out and record all of these locations – so, one can only connect widely spaced dots.

Ice cores recovered during drilling operations on glaciers and ice sheets offer scientists another glimpse into the past. Precise measurement of temperatures and atmospheres (gas bubbles) in the cores make it possible to establish climatic conditions for different geological times.

Oceanographic surveys, using sophisticated underwater exploration techniques, have come of age in the past few decades. Their findings add still more to our knowledge about the planet. Underwater exploration combines engineering technology with other scientific disciplines, such as geology, geophysics, oceanography, meteorology, and archeology. Once all of these data are collected, samples can be described and identified as to aerial location and depth. Based on these descriptions and measurements, a determination of their geologic age can be made. Retrieved archeological artifacts are described, offering additional climate clues. The task of correlating such a myriad of data types from widely spaced dots is a Herculean task. Remember the surface of today’s globe is 70% water; and its extent has varied geographically over time. How many unaccounted for dots might this include? Yes, thousands, maybe millions.

The need for deep-ocean exploration has been driven by offshore oil and gas drilling. Deep drilling platforms are located in ocean depths that reach over two miles. Large amounts of data acquired during drilling, along with deep-sea research programs, could throw new light on the movement of the Earth’s tectonic plates. Deep-ocean drilling programs are adding to our knowledge of bottom-ocean sediments, and deep-ocean life forms, along with study of the geological formations penetrated during drilling operations. Collected data include a photographic record, samples of water and sediments, drilling cuttings, and temperature and pressure measurements.

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution has initiated a deep-sea exploration program using the unmanned submersible vehicle, Nereus. On May 31, 2009, Nereus reached the sea floor at an amazing depth of 35,768 feet. The location was in the deepest part of the world’s oceans in the Mariana Trench. There the submersible spent ten hours making scientific measurements, gathering physical samples and taking photographs of the ocean’s bottom at a depth of seven miles[1].

Data from all the preceding scientific programs may make it possible to improve predictions about future climatic conditions. However, we must take into account the vastness of the atmosphere that surrounds our Earth, as well as the enormous extent of the seawater and seabed. Arriving at reasonable scientific conclusions, based on relatively few scattered data points, becomes as much an art as a science. Understand the problem?

No, we are still short many more factors. We must take into account the solar conditions that affect the Earth. These include the orbit of the Earth around the Sun, variations in the declination of the Earth’s axis, precession (wobble effect) of the Earth on this axis. Then there is the cyclical variation of sunspot activity on the Sun, and lastly, the effects of solar weather. To these, add meteor showers and collisions with rogue asteroids. Every one of these factors, and innumerable combinations of them, played roles of varying importance in the Earth’s climate changes in the past.

Are you beginning to understand the complexity of the predicting climatic conditions for tomorrow, or for a decade ahead? How about a hundred years? Unfortunately, the public has been misled by the statements of some scientists; those who we recently discovered either manipulated data, or relied on inadequate and/or unreliable data, to construct a doomsday model[2] for the Earth’s future. Such erroneous climate outcomes have been widely published by a gullible media, guided by a group of misguided uninformed environmental loons. The leaders of the movement have appointed themselves experts on global warming, not climate change. Their ravings are familiar – I often apply my pet phrase – Don’t confuse me with facts. My mind is made up. Now, no amount of scientific evidence, to the contrary, will convince them that presently, no one can state with any assurance that the Earth is in either a long-term-warming or a long-term cooling trend. Nor will they accept that alteration of the Earth’s climate by unpredictable catastrophic events in the distant past occurred. These events include: 1) massive asteroid or meteor[3] collisions, 2) enormous volcanic eruptions that loaded the atmosphere with volcanic dust, or 3) violent earthquakes.

Real science is based on facts; theories developed by scientists are the basis for seeking solutions – made to be tested (proved or disproved). The correct answers are not determined by a vote of the majority, or consensus; they are determined by reality. Remember, the truth comes from building hypotheses and theories, then rigorously testing them against the data. Only by questioning hypotheses and theories can correct scientific conclusions be reached. However, remember that the data to back up the conclusion must also be adequate. Moreover, had man not exercised his intellectual curiosity it is doubtful if he would ever have progressed beyond the Stone Age.

Far too much emphasis has been placed on global warming and/or global cooling. Not enough on climatology. Not enough on testing the hypotheses. Not enough on research perforrmed by interdisciplinary scientific teams. The environmental activists’ tunnel vision is very simplistic. To them, the Earth will either have catastrophic heating or freezing. They give little thought about what might really be happening. Dr. Carl Wunsch, Professor of Physical Oceanography at Massachusetts Institution of Technology, said that he finds the statements of both extremes of the global climate-change debate distasteful. I go a step further – I find that arguing for either extreme is unscientific and beyond prudence and reason. Presently, the sciences of climatology and meteorology are in their infancy and predictions about future climates are flawed, and therefore, can only be classified as educated guesses, i.e., more accurately, hypotheses that must be tested, not yet theories.

I disagree with those who broadcast that the survival of man depends on our control of the Earth’s climate. They fail to take into account hundreds of intricately woven factors that affect climate; most are far beyond man’s ability to control. Man can only exert bare minimal control over the contents of the atmosphere and hydrosphere. He can improve the utilization and conservation of the Earth’s resources, and initiate methods to stabilize the Earth’s population. Unfortunately worldwide consensus is needed to address these issues. Do you believe we can get such a consensus from the world’s governments?

Excerpt from a not yet published, but copyrighted book by – Howard R. Lowe, PE & Prof. Petroleum Geologist. Title – Beyond Our Control – Debunking Manmade Global Warming.


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