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Friday, October 17, 2014

Denier weirdness: (Computer) model output should never be used as the basis for anything ...

Sou | 4:29 PM Go to the first of 20 comments. Add a comment

Tim Ball has a reputation as a greenhouse effect denier, a paranoid conspiracy theorist and alleged libeller of climate scientists. He is much favoured by Anthony Watts of WUWT, who is very discerning of which articles he will post on his blog. From what I've seen over the past year or so, to be accepted at WUWT, guest articles usually have to meet one or more criteria:

Anthony Watts will also post press releases about new scientific papers, with the headline typically prefaced with the word "claim", meaning that his readers are not to believe the science.

Today he's posted another article by Tim Ball, explaining why he is against the use of these new-fangled thingummys aka computers (archived here). Tim must be yearning for the good old days of notepads, slide rules, log tables and art books. Computer model outputs "should never be used as the basis for anything...", according to Tim.

Oh, sad day...

Tim Ball writes how Ruler of the World, Tom Wigley introduced computers to the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia way back when. Oh what a dreadful day that was. It heralded the downward slide into exploring the intricacies of climate and weather. Gone was reliance on Bruegel paintings of ice and snow. Anecdotal accounts were largely replaced with observational data processed by zeros and ones.

Peter Bruegel the Elder - The Hunters in the Snow, 1565, oil on wood
From Wikipedia

Tim complains that computer models rely on data that doesn't exist. He wrote:
Wigley promoted application of computer models, but Lamb knew they were only as good as the data used for their construction. Lamb is still correct. The models are built on data, which either doesn’t exist, or is by all measures inadequate.

Goodness me. The data doesn't exist or is inadequate. That will be news to meteorologists and weather recorders and analysts world-wide, like at CRU, the UK Met Office/Hadley Centre, NASA, NOAA, and the Bureau of Meteorology - among others.

Tim Ball is misleading WUWT readers. From the CRU website, since 1978 and continuing to the present day, the CRU has been collecting and reporting data - yes, actual data - of land and marine surface temperatures:
The area of CRU's work that has probably had the largest international impact was started in 1978 and continues through to the present-day: the production of the world's land-based, gridded (currently using 5° by 5° latitude/longitude boxes) temperature data set. This involved many person-years of painstaking data collection, checking and homogenization. In 1986, this analysis was extended to the marine sector (in co-operation with the Hadley Centre, Met Office from 1989), and so represented the first-ever synthesis of land and marine temperature data - i.e., the first global temperature record, demonstrating unequivocally that the globe has warmed since 1850, with the warming now reaching about 0.8°C . Work continues year-on-year to update and enhance the record and the publication of the value for the past year is eagerly awaited around the world. The most recent update is the HadCRUT4 dataset (see Morice et al. 2012, which additionally includes the CRU land component, CRUTEM4, Jones et al. 2012).

Tim loves quoting Hubert Lamb to support his conspiracy theories. He quotes from his autobiography, "Through all the changing scenes of life : a meteorologist's tale" published by Taverner Press. (Does anyone have a copy? What else does Hubert Lamb say that Tim doesn't quote?)

Hubert Lamb is heralded by the CRU for his work in recording world-wide weather records. His pioneering work was continued by others at CRU, and his legacy remains. As I understand it, Hubert Lamb was somewhat sceptical of global warming till the day he died in 1997. However, if he were alive today, I'd be surprised if he'd be happy with Tim Ball's paranoid conspiracy theories.

Tim ends up claiming:
Another simple truth is the model output should never be used as the basis for anything let alone global energy policy.

So according to Tim Ball, computer models should never be used for anything in today's modern world, including:

What an utter nutter.

Anthony Watts has fallen a long way down from his modest but praiseworthy ideals when he first started blogging.

From the WUWT comments

denniswingo buys into Tim Ball's crap and writes:
October 16, 2014 at 8:32 pm
It is indeed unfortunate that the study of historical records that H.H. Lamb was so expert at was completely abandoned by the computer mongers.
In the U.S. it happened when A Gore gave Kevin Trenberth at the University of Michigan $5 million dollars to buy a super computer. Took the money from NASA. This is while at UAH John Christy was starved of funds…

cg reckons that hurricanes are the result of "weather weapons" and blames Monsanto
October 16, 2014 at 8:49 pm
Most of these Super Hurricanes and Weather Anomalies are manmade. Weather weapons, and Hawaii had a big GMO Company buy its biggest islands land. All these unusual hurricanes steered towards Hawaii serves Monsanto’s purposes.

LewSkannen observes, irrelevantly, that weather can only be predicted a few days out:
October 16, 2014 at 8:56 pm
Another interesting snippet from the book ‘Chaos’ by Gleick (brother of the other one) is that even if you measured perfectly all the relevant average parameters (temperature, humidity, wind velocity etc) in every cubic meter of the entire atmosphere and had a perfect algorithm to crunch the numbers you would be unable to make any predictions more than a month ahead simply due to the chaotic effects on the algorithm from the tiny discrepancies between the average parameter of each cube and the actual state of each cube. 


  1. Sou, 20 minutes after you published a selection WUWT's commentary, Anthony deleted cg's absurd 'weather weapons' comment with a note saying it was "OT"(over the top).

    I suspect he reads his acolyte's comments here before he reads them on his own thread. That way he can efficiently identify to those scribblings from terminally bewildered commenters.

    1. Anthony is very limited in what he regards as "over the top".

      At WUWT it's not OT to promote wacky sky dragon slayers (greenhouse effect deniers), or claim that model output from those new-fangled inventions, computers, "should never be used for anything".

    2. "OT" means "off-topic", no? so he's nixed it because "Monsanto want to destroy Hawaii" isn't relevant to the discussion, not because it's face-eating insane.

    3. Yes, I saw that, too. The mod doesn't want to alienate the target audience (of crackpots).

  2. computer models should be used for anything in today's modern world, including:

    *not* used?

    1. Thanks, fixed.

      Gremlins struck again! Blame it on the computer (model) :D

  3. I used to work many years ago with a real scientist. When he retired he went back to Melbourne Uni to do a course in Philosophy . He rang me one day and asked about what I knew about chaos theory and fractals as we had discussed this heatedly over the tea table along with his irrational belief system. He was a devout Catholic and I was a lapsed Catholic that only believed in science
    I was already looking into string theory and said I will lend you the books but please tell me if you see anything wrong.
    Apparently his dissertation was a tour de force. It established free will and total uncertainty as to the future of any one persons destiny. In other words there is NO destiny. We make our own future otherwise we will perish.
    His professor asked him where he got this complex idea from. Ian said i cannot tell a lie I got it from a very smart young fellow that still has a lot to learn! Bert

    1. We make our own future ... and then we still perish :(

    2. Yes good point I should have said perish far too early. Bert

  4. I find it rather absurd that a denier would quote Gleick to bolster their simplistic case.
    Shirly they know all the parameters cannot just be cherry picked. Oh sorry they do not Bert

  5. Since we're waxing anecdotal, a memory or two of UEA in the 70's (BSc Computer Science) :

    Al Gore was never once mentioned in my presence. In fact at no time was I given even a hint of the conspiracy being hatched all around me, which I rather resent. Was I lacking in some regard? Were my anti-capitalist credentials not up to scratch?

    Everyone even remotely connected with climate science was utterly fed-up with people asking them if there really was an ice-age comething (no, there wasn't). So much for "In the 70's they all believed ...". Contrast that with "in the 2000's climate deniers all believed an ice-age comethed", which is only marginally hyperbolic.

    I was back on campus a couple of years ago, to visit my brilliant niece (PPE, but one makes allowances for family, doesn't one?), and she asked if much was changed. The main thing which struck me was that there's vastly more computer power in her smartphone than there was on the entire campus in my day - and what there was then covered the area of several tennis-courts. We talked a good game about weather modelling but it was all castles in the sky really.

    1. When I started in science we had a PDP8 with 2k of memory. To really make it work you had to know machine code. This was programming at a fundamental level. I hated the slowness of it all. I was wrong. Bert

    2. Actually you had a PDP8 with a minimum of 4K 12-bit memory :) Core memory for that machine was only available in increments of 4K.

      I still have the front panel of the old PDP8 I first learned programming on, the original model, hand silkscreened glass (they don't build computers like they used to!) sitting on a bookshelf here.

    3. We upgraded our PDP8 to 32k soon after we got it I suspect you are quite correct. I spent many happy hours connecting the rear bit to hard program the PDP8. Bert

    4. As for disk-drives, lets not even go there ...

  6. Oh not merely aircraft design. Pilots are trained using computer models (simulators) because its too expensive to crash the real things just for practice. So by Tim Ball's logic we should revoke every commercial airline pilot's license immediately.

    1. Millicent my brother number seven is a Qantas check pilot. He used to fly Mirages for the RAAF. His claim to fame is the successful first loop in a 747 in a simulator. He had an instinctive knowledge how the aircraft performed. He showed his inherent skill when I took him up at the age of sixteen in a Bellanca and he flew more accurately than myself. This was 1977 and we were young and foolish. Now I am old and foolish. Bert

    2. That loop explains why "instinctive knowledge" is a basic disqualifier for commercial pilot training ;)

  7. Tim is so silly. Modeling is pretty much all you do in physics, computers just help you calculate faster with those models. Newton's equations are a model for classical mechanics. Even mechanics using special relativity are a model under the assumption that no other forces are present. Try doing general relativity without a simplified model. Feynman diagrams (and the equations that follow) form a perurbative model of particle interactions because calculating exactly is too difficult. The Higgs was determined to exist by comparing the data to computer models of what was expected. Maybe Tim doesn't think we found the Higgs. I can go on. What a joke.

  8. I am having a lot of problems with plagiarism of this allen watts character,

    see here,

    they breed like mice with this anti science agenda on a forum that seems pro science
    but cats like mice.......................


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