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Atmospheric Modeling and the Real World


Many scientists have lamented the increasing distortion of the science behind climate change and the over-confidence and arrogance of those who promote the predictions of long-term disastrous global warming. Here's some personal insight.

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Anthony J. Sadar


During the past several decades, many scientists have lamented the increasing distortion of the science behind climate change and the over-confidence and arrogance of those who promote the predictions of long-term disastrous global warming.

Most of my 35 years as an atmospheric scientist has involved atmospheric modeling; and, atmospheric modeling is of course what is used to understand and then forecast future global climate conditions.

Photo credit: Shutterstock Photo credit: Shutterstock

The results of climate models are what have generated all the fervent fuss over climate change. Even in the short-term, champions of climate models assured us that those models practically guaranteed that as carbon dioxide - the major “greenhouse gas” of concern - increased dramatically, so would atmospheric temperatures. But, for almost two decades now, that increase has not occurred as predicted.

Meanwhile, with unquestioning faith in climate model output, politicians and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have been progressing a trillion-dollar scheme to replace abundant, reliable, inexpensive fossil-fuel energy with sporadic and expensive “free” solar and wind energy. This move will continue to hamper our nation’s industrial, agricultural and technological productivity.

Energy abundance and independence are key to advancing a nation, so, not only well-off nations like the U.S., but poor nations are also hindered or stopped in their economic progress and population’s well-being.

Some perspective on modeling is urgently needed.

Models are tools, representations of reality, not reality itself. Numeric climate models are used to forecast (although, rather imprecisely) long-range global and even regional conditions. Models mix various natural and anthropogenic conditions together in a highly technological and scientific manner. The increase in knowledge in atmospheric dynamics and the phenomenal explosion of computational speed by computers have served to advance climate science at an impressive rate, thus some reliance on model output is understandable.

At a national air quality modeling conference I attended earlier this month, the numerous presentations and discussions demonstrated not only the impressive power of models to predict simple scenarios, but also their inability to handle more complex conditions.

But, regardless of the conditions and integrity of sophisticated model outcomes, we already know that humans do have some significant effect on the climate. Perhaps the best example is what’s called the “heat island effect,” where cities are observed to be several degrees warmer on average than surrounding countrysides.

So, as for climate modeling, two very important questions are: 1) To what extent do humans impact the climate; and, 2) is the result of human impact ultimately beneficial or destructive?

Regarding extent of impact, as an example, the heat-island effect is well documented. This effect occurs on what’s called the micro- and meso- scale levels of climate. As such, it covers a limited area of a region. The effect surely has some global significance, although the extent of the effect worldwide and long-term is limited.

As far as the ultimate benefit or destructiveness of human impact, an argument can be made that, for humans at least, present-day cities beat the alternative of constant competition with the ecosystem in a more natural setting such as a wilderness.

And contemporary life does not necessitate brutal domination of the natural world. People and the planet can (indeed must) live in harmony, if both are to achieve maximum benefits. But the focus should be on people.

Physicist and prolific science writer James Trefil argued this harmonization well in his book Human Nature: A Blueprint for Managing the Earth – By People, For People (Times Books, 2004). Trefil noted that we have an “environmental toolbox” of modern means like vast informational and technological resources and genomics that can be used to shape ecosystems to benefit both humans and nature.

Climate modeling certainly represents some of the best of today’s science. However, as the basis for climate hysterics, such modeling is a woefully inadequate foundation. And although society has a significant but limited impact on the earth and its climate, real-world perspective is urgently needed if we are to effect reasonable care for both people and the planet.

Anthony J. Sadar is a Certified Consulting Meteorologist and author of In Global Warming We Trust: Too Big to Fail (Stairway Press, 2016).

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