Sunday, August 30, 2009

Bulletin: Solar Radiation is not Constant; May Affect Climate

An article from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, via Watts Up With That, indicates that cycles in solar radiation that were not accounted for in the CO2-driven climate models may have an influence on climate. The sun? Who knew?

The news got Halfwise here thinking about our thinking, so I posted the following comment in the comments thread at WUWT:

Chaos-rich systems, for example climate or stock markets, invite mortals like us to proclaim that we finally understand the system based on a new model that explains its behavior over some limited time period, at some selected scale.

Then when some other mortal adds to our model or (worse for our ego) debunks it with a different and better model, we are usually tempted to defend our model and diminish the importance of others' findings rather than thank them for their insights. Our natural human tendency is to focus on our feeble explanations rather than on the marvelous complexity and uncertainty that we are attempting to model, denying that we are inevitably doomed to be passed by a better model.

The whole AGW debate has, in my view, been sidetracked into a debate about what to do as a result of the predictions of a generation of models. We forget that all models intrinsically have fatal limits as to scale and time period. This memory lapse is convenient if it supports the agendas of some and touches on the psyche of others, which can certainly be said about the Green movement in general these days.

The latest research on solar radiation feels to me like a step towards greater understanding of reality. But I am sure that CO2 felt to many others like a step towards greater understanding of reality too, so it is not time to proclaim that the tide has turned and the latest model is finally comprehensive enough to be believed by all. As noted, typically what happens now is intense defense of previous models, not gratitude for new insights.

Just as with the stock market, climate will assert its own complexity and uncertainty, and honest people will come to regret their allegiance to a wrong model.

I have one prediction: three years from now, we will all be less confident in our beliefs about our abilities to understand complex systems. It will be a kind of "scientific agnoticism" and will be part of a societal movement away from being swept up in the expensive collective, moving instead towards individual rights and obligations. We can thank the Green movement for reminding us of our obligation to sustainability; we need not thank them for Cap & Trade.


JR said...

Most excellent commentary. Very wise.

Halfwise said...

Aw shucks JR.

But thank you for stopping by and commenting. You are my antidote to the mostly-insufferable PKD.

PKD said...

Flattery will get you nowhere Half - bit like the logic in this article...although I appreciate the need for you denialists to stick together and be buddies and all that.

Anyway to address the main point of your post...
An article from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, via Watts Up With That, indicates that cycles in solar radiation that were not accounted for in the CO2-driven climate models may have an influence on climate. The sun? Who knew?

I'll refer you to Pamela Gray's comment.

Just to clarify for those readers who may be confused, global dimming/brightening is an endogenous (Earth) source of variation. Variation in the Sun’s ability to shine on us is very tiny, very very tiny, in relation to the Earth’s ability to reflect (bounce back) the Sun’s shortwave radiation. Increased reflection means a brighter planet. Under clear sky conditions, we “look” brighter if we were standing on the moon. Under dusty, cloudy, murky conditions, we “look” dimmer if we were standing on the moon. Most of the solar shortwave radiation is absorbed but a fraction is not, it is reflected back into space (which happens at all layers of our Planet, from the outer atmosphere to the sands of Africa). In summary, this dimming and brightening refers to the Earth, not the Sun, and the paper’s focus in on the Earth, not the Sun.

So The paper is *not* about the sun, but the *Earth* - you've got the wrong end of stick...hopefully Pamelas comment has cleared up your confusion better than I could?

Halfwise said...

And the cause is CO2, well modelled and predicted, right?

Don't get on your high horse, I read Pamela Gray's comment at the time and understand its implications.

Search this blog for references to "chaos rich systems", PKD, and you will find me saying again and again that we claim to understand things that we do not understand. You call me a denialist, as if that label adds any value. But when you take my words as meant, you will understand me to be much less convicted than that label implies.

I call myself Halfwise on this blog because my world view is that we are not anywhere near as wise as we think we are. I am an agnostic in the area of climate science because we can not understand this system, and the claims that we DO understand it, including yours, reveal people in denial about how feeble the understanding truly is.

Don't take it personally as an AGW believer, PKD. I feel the same about the stock market and organizational behaviour (and organized religion too, with an odd twist).

Show me how global dimming and brightening were modelled in the GCMs, and then you can be smug about what the study says. Admit it, you and I had never heard of the term two weeks ago.

PKD said...

Half, I've never stated that CC is perfectly modelled and we've nothing left to learn, no more development to make to improve our knowledge. You've kind of just imagined thatwhat I think somewhere down the line.

Sicentific advances are made all the time, improving our understanding of how things work.
This is one of them. Does it automatically invalidate all our understanding of AGW? no.

Just because Einstein came up with general theory of relativity doesn't invalidate Newtonian physics, but improve our understanding further. This - providing it passes peer review - furthers that.

Halfwise said...

Funny. I had read somewhere that the science is settled.

Glad that we can agree it is not.

PKD said...

Funny. I had read somewhere that the science is settled.

You should read what alarmists say with a pinch of salt. Denialists who same the same sort of thing - likewise, Halfwise!