Determining causes of severe weather ‘so complex that isolating them would be like taking the sugar out of a chocolate-chip cookie’

Maggie Koerth-Baker writes in the New York Times:

A new method of statistical analysis called “event attribution,” developed by Allen, allows climate scientists to better understand how weather patterns work today. It examines recent severe weather events, assessing how much of their probability can be attributed to climate change. These impacts are so complex that isolating them would be like taking the sugar out of a chocolate-chip cookie — nearly impossible, everything is so intertwined. Event attribution tries to break through this ambiguity using brute force.

Harnessing a tremendous amount of computing power, scientists create two virtual worlds: one where the atmosphere and climate look and operate like ours does today, and one that looks more like the preindustrial world, before we started releasing greenhouse gases from factories, cars and buildings. They alter the weather in both simulated environments and see whether natural disasters play out given differing sea-ice levels, greenhouse-gas concentrations and sea-surface temperatures. They do this over and over and over, tens of thousands of times, producing an estimate of how much our altered climate affected the outcome.

It’s a slow process that requires sophisticated software, which is why it’s a relatively recent development. It took Allen and his team six years and 50,000 simulations to analyze the causes behind an episode of fall flooding in Britain in 2000. Eventually, they were able to say this: 9 times out of 10, the world with climate change had a 20 percent greater chance of experiencing those floods than the world without.

Read more…

12 thoughts on “Determining causes of severe weather ‘so complex that isolating them would be like taking the sugar out of a chocolate-chip cookie’”

  1. So they guessed that a cooler drier earth would be, um, cooler and drier than the current earth and their models built on this guess only showed a 20% chance of more flooding? That’s and epic fail as far as I’m concerned. Of course it’s all just a stupid modeling game anyway, but a nice gig if you can get it.

  2. These people had an agenda and preconceived results and the best they could come up with was: ” 9 times out of 10, the world with climate change had a 20 percent greater chance of experiencing those floods than the world without.” ?

  3. The most amazing implication here is that mankind has successfully created an artificial intelligence greater than man itself. Here I still thought that computers were only capable of outputting exactly what you told them to.

  4. .Young, thank you for your suggestion ref Hayek The Pretence of Knowledge.Economics and climatology have so many points in common..
    Indeed every one shoulg read it.

  5. You know, that term, Playstation Climatology, bugs me.

    Now, Maxis did release a climate model for the Super NES and Sega CD in the form of SimEarth, and it was recently released for the Nintendo Wii. However, to my knowledge, no climate models have ever been run on Playstations.

  6. Everyone should read Hayek’s 1974 Noble Prize lecture. More or less, we don’t even know the variables we need to put into the model.

  7. And using a big computer and lots of cycles to analyze what you don’t know and don’t know how to analyze is just an expensive way to average the high-resolution crap.

  8. Problem is, they don’t know what: “given differing sea-ice levels, greenhouse-gas concentrations and sea-surface temperatures. ” mean in the real world so they can’t make their models respond in the same way. High resolution crap is still crap.

  9. Playstation(c) climatology some more. ” 9 times out of 10, the world with climate change had a 20 percent greater chance of experiencing those floods than the world without.” That’s a wildly unconvincing attribution to me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.