Reluctantly Taking the Bait

Comments on the Heidi Cullen AMS Certification Controversy

For years I’ve tried to tried to resist the temptation to jump publicly into the “global warming” (GW) fray in general, and lately, the Cullen BLOG eruption in particular, under the attitude that:

1. I’ve got better things to do with my time (still true, alas…sigh!) and

2. Climate models do not and should not paramaterize the tornado. GW and severe local storms (e.g., the tornado) are so far apart in scope, scale and physical process that, given current understanding (and lacks of understanding) of each, no physical relationship between them has been established; and IMHO, any claim of one is insane. If you have rock-solid data to show otherwise, you know what they say in Missouri…

Ultimately, however, when it comes to my attempts to avoid the temptations of any atmospheric science controversy, it’s likely that resistance is futile. 🙂

I made the following statements in reply to my friend and colleague Jim LaDue’s initial Offload BLOG post on the topic, but they can can stand alone outside the context of that to which I was responding.


So Heidi advocates that one must “understand” (a no-so-subtle euphemism for “advocate” or “agree to”) an AMS statement to get AMS certification? Rubbish! Her comment was badly stated at best, irresponsible scientific fascism at worst.

Denying any form of credentials to a scientist who doesn’t agree to *any* given theory violates one of the most fundamental tenets of science: Skepticism without fear of repercussion. As Jim pointed out nicely in his BLOG entry, there are legitimate scientific skeptics regarding the degree of anthropogenic influence on climate. In fact, every scientist whose published solution differs from another’s by any amount is, by intrinsic virtue of that difference in results, a skeptic of the others’ numbers.

And it seems far more scientists in this field need to become skeptics of their *own* results. I’ve seen very little of this healthy attitude from any flavor of the “global warming” (really, a misnomer, as Kerry Emanuel recently pointed out) arguments.

I have no solid position yet because I have neither the expertise nor the credentials in the subspecialty of anthropogenic climatology to judge the various arguments put forth as to the relative influence of unnatural emissions on global thermal adjustment. I’ve read some papers; that’s it.

I do know, however, that this branch of science still is in its early infancy…a highly immature field of study with many more decades of observational data still to be collected, and many more teraflops worth of simulations to be run thereon. Let it play out…let science keep being done — preferably without contamination by either liberal or conservative politics. [The predominance of the former *in* science is as disturbing as of the latter outside of science, also recently discussed by Kerry.]

Maybe the skeptics are a flat-earth society, maybe not. ‘Til we find out beyond the most remote probability of doubt, she should be advocating open-mindedness, which is the very opposite of her proposal of effective censorship through coercive adherence to “consensus” groupthink.


That was my Offload comment verbatim. For clarification, I don’t blindly buy into nor endorse everything Kerry stated in his lengthy essay, but he brought up many important points in a very eloquent way. Folks interested in sifting through the roaring cacophony of extremist (left and right!) GW banter should read Kerry’s editorial for as balanced of a perspective, as close to the middle ground, as I’ve seen — sure to piss off both radical liberals and staunch conservatives who are unwilling to fully compartmentalize their political opinions from their scientific work!

And I might just have more to say in the future about a spinoff issue that doesn’t necessarily have to do with GW, but which Kerry astutely brought up: A strong perception — which I have as well — of leftist “intellectual homogeneity” in science. More on that soon too.


4 Responses to “Reluctantly Taking the Bait”

  1. tornado on February 1st, 2007 9:08 pm

    An addendum:

    By fortuitous happenstance I also was asked out of the blue through my work connections to contribute a piece to the Earth and Sky BLOG, which they entitled, “Will global warming cause more tornadoes?”

    Since HTML is disabled in BLOG commenting here, paste this into your browser if interested.

    I could have written it better, but the points should be clear. In short, it’s ridiculous to even speculate!

  2. tornado on May 3rd, 2007 8:53 am

    The dangers of mixing politics and science are well stated by Michael Crichton here, using the sociologically devastating historical phenomenon of eugenics:

    [Paste that link into your browser since this BLOG doesn’t accept HTML.]

    While I don’t agree with his atheistic stance that science is the *only* answer to solving human problems, science is a distinct and powerful capability we have (God-given, no less) which should not be corrupted by politics — anywhere, anytime, for any reason! In the pop-fad side of the “global warming” phenomenon, Albert_Gore-style, it clearly is. This cannot be good for the purity of scientific method and inquiry.

    ===== Roger =====

  3. SK on August 25th, 2007 9:44 pm

    GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 34, L16703, doi:10.1029/2007GL030525, 2007

    Will moist convection be stronger in a warmer climate?


    The intensity of moist convection is an important diagnostic of climate change not currently predicted by most climate models. We show that a simple estimate of the vertical velocity of convective updrafts in a global climate model reproduces observed land-ocean differences in convective intensity. Changes in convective intensity in a doubled CO2 simulation are small because the tropical lapse rate tends to follow a moist adiabatic profile. However, updrafts strengthen by ∼1 m s−1 with warming in the lightning-producing regions of continental convective storms, primarily due to an upward shift in the freezing level. For the western United States, drying in the warmer climate reduces the frequency of lightning-producing storms that initiate forest fires, but the strongest storms occur 26% more often. For the central-eastern United States, stronger updrafts combined with weaker wind shear suggest little change in severe storm occurrence with warming, but the most severe storms occur more often.

  4. SK on October 20th, 2007 10:35 am

    JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH, VOL. 112, D20109, doi:10.1029/2006JD008345, 2007

    Telescoping, multimodel approaches to evaluate extreme convective weather under future climates


    Understanding of the possible response of severe convective precipitating storms to elevated greenhouse gas concentrations remains elusive. To address this problem, telescoping, multimodel approaches are proposed, which allow representation of a broad range of processes that could regulate convective storm behavior. In the global-cloud approach (G-C), the NCEP-NCAR Reanalysis Project (NNRP) global data set provides initial and boundary conditions for short-term integrations of a mesoscale model and nested convective-cloud-permitting domain. In the global-regional-cloud approach (G-R-C), the NNRP data set provides initial and boundary conditions for long-term integrations of a regional climate model, which in turn forces short-term integrations of a mesoscale model and nested convective-cloud-permitting domain. Upon applying these approaches to historical extreme convective storm events, it was found that the global-scale data could be dynamically downscaled to produce realistic convective-scale solutions. In particular, tornado proxies computed from the model-simulated winds were shown to compare well in relative numbers to those of tornado observations on many of the days considered. This supports the telescoping modeling concept as a viable means to address effects of elevated greenhouse gas concentrations on convective-scale phenomena. In an evaluation of the two approaches, it was also found that simulations of the historical events by the G-C were superior to those by the G-R-C. Sensitivity of the convective-scale processes to details in the downscaled synoptic-scale flow, and to the placement of the mesoscale model domain within the regional climate model, reduced the effectiveness of the G-R-C.

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