Saturday, May 3, 2014

Judith Curry's cynical game: "CAGW Memeplex"

Judith Curry PhD, posted the following at her website where she seems to take endless joy in spinning evidence; injecting impossible expectations; misrepresenting the work of colleagues; and adding ever more layers of confusion rather than clarity. 

This was written by Andy West who tries to 'look inside the heads' of folks who see current geophysical trends as leading to catastrophe down the line...

"CAGW memeplex"
Posted on November 1, 2013
Written by Andy West, endorsed and posted with pride by Judith Curry at her blog.

"The hypothesis for a single, simple, scientific explanation underlying the entire complex social phenomenon of CAGW.

Whatever is happening in the great outdoors regarding actual climate, inside the minds of men overwhelming evidence indicates that Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming is a self-sustaining narrative that is living off our mental capacity, either in symbiosis or as an outright cultural parasite; a narrative that is very distanced from physical real-world events. 

The social phenomenon of CAGW possesses all the characteristics of a grand memetic alliance, like numerous similar structures before it stretching back beyond the reach of historic records, and no doubt many more cultural creatures that have yet to birth.

Having painted a picture CAGW from a memetic perspective in fiction last December "
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I wish I could comprehend how educated people can embrace such a contorted chain of reasoning.  

First consider the fundamental claim: evidence for CAGW is "very distanced from physical real-world events" the implication being that significant changes and trends are not being observed on this Earth in recent decades.  It's about as disconnected a claim as can be made.  

Consider this list of quantifiable and significant real-world physical changes to our planet's climate engine:

Rising indicators
  1. Air temperature over land
  2. Sea-surface temperature
  3. Marine air temperature
  4. Sea-level
  5. Ocean heat content
  6. Specific Humidity
  7. Tropospheric temperature in the "active-weather" layer of the atmosphere closest to the Earth's surface

Declining indicators
  1. Arctic sea-ice September extent
  2. Glacier Mass
  3. Spring snow cover in the northern hemisphere

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These are undeniable and significant physical changes!  To imagine they won't have far reaching cascading impacts upon weather patterns is irrational.

Curry and friends get around this detail by ignoring it - 
instead focusing on one disingenuous rhetorical game after another.  
Such as this "CAGW" bludgeon. 

Consider the word "Catastrophic" Merriam-Webster defines it:
1:  the final event of the dramatic action especially of a tragedy  ~ 2:  a momentous tragic event ranging from extreme misfortune to utter overthrow or ruin  ~  3a :  a violent and sudden change in a feature of the earth  ~ 3b :  a violent usually destructive natural event  ~ 4:  utter failure
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A. West writes: "The hypothesis for a single, simple, scientific explanation underlying the entire complex social phenomenon of CAGW. "

Deep sounding, but what's West actually saying?  

It's not a "social phenomena"- it's physical!  Our global climate is a complex creature, with many components and drivers and feedback loops, which climatologists keep on learning about with ever greater resolution.  We don't need every minute detail to appreciate the dire situation we are in.  
{If West want's to examine a social phenomena, he should examine the right-wing's penchant for science denialism!}

The settled fact of the matter is that greenhouse gases are the key insulating component of our planet's atmosphere and they are supercharging our climate system - and humanity is in charge of that.

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While West rather focus on imagining (fabricating) what's inside the heads of his targets, it would have been more productive for him to have focused on what's being observed upon our planet after all, keep in mind cumulative compounding interest is the strongest force in the universe.

For instance, consider the melting arctic, it used to be covered with sun reflecting ice.  Sure the ice cover was dynamic and slight 'natural' forcings produced impressive changes over recorded history, but it has been demonstrated that none of those transient changes over the past many millennia were anything like the current trend.  

We know that the newly exposed expanses of Arctic Ocean are collecting heat and evaporating massive quantities of H2O into the troposphere.  In turn injecting vast quantities of moisture, heat, and energy into convection currents rising into the troposphere.  We also know that the Northern Jet Stream is trending towards ever greater meandering patterns, this in turn is driving some of the most extreme-extreme weather events in human history.  

Yet, contrarians will demand that until every detail of this transformation - between evaporating arctic waters and localized extreme weather events across the hemisphere - can be documented, we should ignore the obvious implications... more moisture, more heat, more energy WILL lead to more destructive storms.

Recent melt rates of Canadian arctic ice caps are the highest in four millennia

The Great Ice Meltdown and Rising Seas: Lessons for Tomorrow

Arctic melt causes more climate problems than anticipated

NASA satellites see Arctic surface darkening faster

Feedbacks in the Arctic - MARCH 20, 2014

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Now for a sobering review of current catastrophic (for society and other inhabitants of our globe) impacts of a warming planet as reflected in the flow of extreme-extreme infra-structure destroying weather events: 
Extreme Weather Events and Our Changing Climate 2000-2010 
In the First IPCC Assessment Report published in 1990, they stated that episodes of high temperatures would most likely become more frequently observed in the future. In the Third IPCC Assessment Report published in 2001, the likelihood of higher maximum temperatures, higher minimum temperatures and more intense precipitation had increased from most likely to very likely (90-99% probability). 
The most recent IPCC Assessment published in 2007 takes this even further, mentioning the contraction of snow area, decrease in sea ice extent and glaciers in the Northern Hemisphere and increases in permafrost thawing. So have these climate predictions based on assessment of scientific research been borne out? The following text was produced by the World Meteorological Organisation in December 2010, who reviewed extreme weather events over the past decade. 
The 10 warmest years on record have all occurred since 1998. The 2000s decade was warmer than the 1990s which was warmer than the 1980s and earlier decades. The first ten months of 2010 tied the same period in 1998 for the warmest combined land and ocean surface temperature on record worldwide, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the UK Met Office’s Hadley Centre. 
On 19 September 2010 at the end of the melt season the sea-ice extent was the third smallest on the satellite data record, after 2007 and 2009 (data of U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center) (Figure 1).  
Global mean sea level is higher now and is rising more rapidly than at any other time in the past 3 000 years at the pace of approximately 3.4 mm per year from 1993 to 2008, according to data published by the WMO co-sponsored World Climate Research Programme. This is almost twice the average rate for the twentieth century.  
Greenland will record its warmest decade (2001-2010) since modern measurements began. Most stations in West Greenland especially in the south western part will very likely record its warmest ever year in 2010. In August, ice measuring more than 200 sq. km calved from the Petermann Glacier in northern Greenland – the largest chunk in the past 50 years of observations and data (since 1962). Tens of thousands of icebergs calve yearly from the glaciers of Greenland, but this one was exceptionally large and because of its size more typically resembled icebergs in the Antarctic.  
Source: World Meteorological Organisation, 2010. A snapshot of some extreme events over the past decade. 
The following listing of 34 notable extreme weather events, taken from a WMO report (2010), provides sobering reading, and emphasises the impact on societies as we try to cope with our changing climate.
  1. Extreme cold winter in Siberia and Mongolia. Minimum temperatures dropped to near -60°C across central and southern Siberia resulting in hundreds of deaths. (2001)
  2. Between February and April, heavy rainfall and flooding hit the southern African countries of Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia. (2001)
  3. Typhoon Rusa hit Korea causing flooding and hundred of deaths. It was reported as the worst national storm since 1959 and also led to a new national record of 24-h rainfall with 870 mm. (2002)
  4. Unprecedented extreme heat waves occurred across much of Europe during summer. This led to record breaking temperatures, surpassing in some cases 40°C, and tens of thousands of related deaths. (2003)
  5. Tropical cyclone Gafilo hit Madagascar with winds up to 260 km/h, causing hundreds of deaths. (2004)
  6. Hurricane Ivan hit the Caribbean causing flooding, massive destruction and deaths. (2004)
  7. For the first time in history a documented hurricane developed in the South Atlantic Ocean in March. Unofficially named Catarina it made landfall along the southern coast of Brazil causing great damage. (2004)
  8. Warmest summer on record in central Canada (2005).
  9. Worst drought in 60 years in Brazil caused the lowest Amazon flow in 30 years. (2005)
  10. The monsoon season brought unprecedented heavy rain and widespread massive flooding to parts of western and southern India affecting more than 20 million people. (2005)
  11. Most active Atlantic hurricane season on record. Hurricane Katrina hit the southern United States killing more than 1300 people, and was considered as the deadliest hurricane to hit the country since 1928. (2005)
  12. Typhoon Durian hit Philippines causing massive damages and more than 1000 deaths. (2006)
  13. Long term drought continued in the early part of the year over Greater Horn of Africa. (2006)
  14. Severe to extreme drought was present across large parts of western United States, as well as in the southern plains. Devastating fires caused massive destruction and millions of hectares burned. (2006-2007)
  15. In July extreme rainfall triggered the worst flooding in 60 years over the United Kingdom. (2007)
  16. Coldest winter in 50 years and unusual snowfalls in large parts of southern South America. (2007)
  17. Massive flooding in Mexico in early November was considered the worst weather-related disaster in the nation’s history. (2007)
  18. Summer heavy rainfall caused flooding and flash floods in several African countries. Thousands of homes were destroyed and more than 1.5 million people were affected. (2007)
  19. Tropical cyclone Gonu formed in the north Indian Ocean making landfall in Oman and then reaching Iran. It was reported as the strongest cyclone on record in the Arabian Sea. (2007)
  20. Remarkably mild winter over most parts of Scandinavia. With monthly anomalies exceeding +7°C, large parts of Norway, Sweden and Finland had the warmest winter ever recorded since the beginning of measurements. (2008)
  21. Extreme cold temperatures combined with the worst snowstorm in 5 decades were observed across China during January. The extreme cold event extended as far west as Turkey. (2008)
  22. Severe prolonged drought hit Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and southern Brazil causing severe damage to agriculture, livestock and water resources. For large areas it was one of the driest years on record. (2008)
  23. Several all time winter snowfall records were set across Canada. (2008)
  24. During September-November period heavy and extended rainfall affected Algeria and Morocco, causing severe infrastructure damage. These were the worst floods in a century for Algeria. A similar meteorological situation was repeated one year later across the same region. (2008)
  25. In southern Australia dry conditions reinforced long term drought. These conditions exacerbated severe water shortages in the agriculturally important Murray-Darling Basin, resulting in widespread crop failures. (2008-2009)
  26. Tropical cyclone Nargis was the worst natural disaster to hit Myanmar. It killed more than 70 000 people. (2008)
  27. Exceptional heat wave in late October/early November in northern and central Argentina, with record breaking temperatures of more than 40°C in large areas. (2009)
  28. Record heat waves across Australia during January/February, August and November. Disastrous bushfires associated caused more than 170 fatalities. Highest temperature ever recorded so far south anywhere in the world was observed in Victoria with 48.8°C. (2009)
  29. Extreme cold waves and record snowfalls were observed during winter 2009/2010 in Europe, and large parts of the United States. (2010)
  30. Extreme heat and drought in July and August led to disastrous bushfires in western Russia. (2010)
  31. In summer Pakistan experienced the worst floods in its history. More than 1 700 deaths were reported and more than 20 million people were affected. (2010)
  32. Heavy rainfall in China contributed to floods and landslides, including a devastating mud-rockslide which killed more than 1,500 people in Zhoqu County, northwest China (2010)
  33. Extreme precipitation events in West Africa, with the worst flooding in 50 years in Benin (2010)
  34. Flooding affected Central and Eastern Europe several times during the decade. Poland was most affected in 2001, while Germany, Romania, Austria, Czech Republic and Slovakia suffered the most in 2002, with thousands of people evacuated. More recently, in 2008, Germany was hit by a large number of thunderstorms with hail and tornadoes and in 2009 some countries suffered from similar floods to those observed in 2002. In 2010 flooding in the Danube river basin caused severe damage. (2001-2010)
Source: World Meteorological Organisation, 2010. A snapshot of some extreme events over the past decade.
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Also check out:  WMO: Last Decade Saw “Unprecedented” Climate Extremes 

"The WMO report further highlights the growing body of evidence which explains the recent slowdown in atmospheric warming rates with the increased warming of our oceans at the same time. 
According to scientists, as much as 90% of the heat caused by greenhouse gas emissions is being absorbed by the world’s oceans. 
There is strong evidence of warming in the surface water of the oceans, plus increasing evidence of unprecedented warming in the deep ocean, which scientists say could account for the so-called “missing heat” in our atmosphere – as temperatures above land have increased slightly slower than projected in recent years. 
The WMO also notes that between 2001 and 2010 there was no major El Niño event, which normally leads to higher atmospheric temperatures. 
Rather, much of the decade experienced either cooling La Niña events or neutral conditions, with the exception of 2009/2010, which saw a moderate to strong El Niño. 
This makes the fact that 2001-2010 was the warmest decade since records began even more striking, as an average number of El Niño events during this decade probably would have resulted in even warmer temperatures.
The report paints a stark picture of continued and accelerated global warming, with a rapid increase in extreme weather events and subsequent human losses, offering an important perspective on the misguided debate about slower atmospheric warming in the past few years being reason to rejoice. "
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That short review of extreme to catastrophic weather events ended in 2010, since then the tempo has been increasing… but then, what else could we have possibly expected.

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Timeline of 2013: A Year of Extreme Weather Events
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Overall picture of natural catastrophes in 2013 dominated by weather extremes in Europe and Super typhoon Haiyan
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‘Weather Whiplash’: A Story of Two Years — 2012 and 2013
—  June 3, 2013

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Losses to catastrophic weather events rank 2012 among the worst on record
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"Weather Underground in Weather 2012"
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Time lapse 2012 weather events

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Top ten global weather events of 2011

Time lapse 2011 weather events
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2010 - 2011: Earth's most extreme weather since 1816?
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Severe Weather of Summer 2010
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Extreme Weather 2010

Extreme weather events from around the world in 2010.

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Top 10 US Weather/Climate Events in 2009
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55 million people affected by extreme weather disasters in 2009
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Climate Change Science Compendium 2009

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Top 10 Weather/Climate
Events in 2008

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Early 2007 saw record-breaking extreme weather: U.N.
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Top 10 US Weather/Climate Events in 2007

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Top 10 Weather/Climate Events in 2006

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Top 10 Weather/Climate Events in 2005

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Top 10 Weather/Climate Events in 2004

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Top 10 Weather/Climate Events in 2003

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Top 10 Weather/Climate Events in 2002

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Top 10 Weather/Climate Events in 2001

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Top 10 Weather/Climate Events in 2000

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Top 10 US Weather/Climate Events in 1999
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Arctic Sea Ice Decline (2012)
{A detailed look at the melting along with consequences of that melting ice cap.}

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Weather extremes in a Changing Climate: Hindsight on Foresight
Here's the sad undeniable really folks like West and Curry do their manipulative best to hide from their audience:
Change: Don't wait until you can feel it  
Carnegie Institution  |  April 25, 2014 
Despite overwhelming scientific evidence for the impending dangers of human-made climate change, policy decisions leading to substantial emissions reduction have been slow. New research shows that even as extreme weather events influence those who experience them to support policy to address climate change, waiting for the majority of people to live through such conditions firsthand could delay meaningful action by decades.
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citizenschallenge said...

The Quantum Theory of Climate Denial

The Australian quantum theory of climate denial

New Video: Climate, Jetstream, Polar Vortex

Lars Karlsson said...

That text reminds me of the Sokal hoax.

Don Brooks said...

The meta-lesson here is that anytime one sees the acronym "CAGW" one should not expect reasoned or informed discussion.

citizenschallenge said...

For a better review of what trends and future warming will bring to our planet's physical systems check out this frighteningly informative review

A degree by degree explanation of what will happen when the earth warms

It actually seems like a conservative review since it assumes certain systems particularly transportation, power supply and global communications have a resilience that I don't think can stand up to the various challenges coming their way.

Still it's a sobering review of what the known Earth Sciences have to tell us about the direction we are taking our one and only home planet.

citizenschallenge said...

Thanks for pointing out the "Sokal Hoax"
Worthy addition to this collection, here's a write up on it.

Sokal's Hoax

Steven Weinberg
The New York Review of Books, Volume XLIII,
No. 13, pp 11-15, August 8, 1996