Normally, in the scientific method, you make a prediction based on a hypothesis, then observe to see if your prediction comes true. If not, you discard the hypothesis and get a new one.
In the arena of climate science, apparently, different rules apply. If your prediction is wrong, you redouble your search for mechanisms to explain the "variance". There is no chance the underlying theory is wrong, or even flawed.
How bad did the climate establishment miss their projections? Former NASA scientist Dr. Roy Spencer has collected 73 model forecasts, and compared them to observations (circles and squares; H/T wattsupwiththat.com):
The discrepancy between models and observations is not a new issue…just one that is becoming more glaring over time.
It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out in the coming years. I frankly don’t see how the IPCC can keep claiming that the models are “not inconsistent with” the observations. Any sane person can see otherwise.
But the New York Times is not any sane person. In an article called "What to Make of a Warming Plateau" they attempt to explain the variance away. This article is worth a read as it has a howler in just about every paragraph. A few examples:
The slowdown is a bit of a mystery to climate scientists. True, the basic theory that predicts a warming of the planet in response to human emissions does not suggest that warming should be smooth and continuous. To the contrary, in a climate system still dominated by natural variability, there is every reason to think the warming will proceed in fits and starts.
"A bit of a mystery" indeed. As in, none of the models were accurate. And while there may be some "fits and starts" in individual models, the average increases every single year after 1995. The Times continues:
But given how much is riding on the scientific forecast, the practitioners of climate science would like to understand exactly what is going on.They admit that they do not, even though some potential mechanisms of the slowdown have been suggested. The situation highlights important gaps in our knowledge of the climate system, some of which cannot be closed until we get better measurements from high in space and from deep in the ocean.
The scientists may not understand what's going on, but it is a 100% certainty that any prescription for the planet's supposed malady is going to cost prosperity in the developed nations, but it will cost lives in the developing world. If you're proposing heart surgery, you sure as hell better know what you're talking about. This talk of "potential mechanisms" and "important gaps in knowledge" gives me a cold chill.
In fact, scientists can calculate how much extra heat should be accumulating from the human-caused increases in greenhouse gases, and the energies involved are staggering. By a conservative estimate, current concentrations are trapping an extra amount of energy equivalent to 400,000 Hiroshima bombs exploding across the face of the earth every day.
My first instinct upon reading this was that somebody dropped a decimal place or five in their calculation. Taking the factoid at face value, though, they're saying that the energy equivalent of 2.2 billion "Little Boys", or over 35 trillion tons of TNT energy-equivalent that has just gone missing over the last 15 years. Pooof, just like that.
Climate scientists, according to the Times, suspect the ocean is the culprit:
Exactly why the ocean would have started to draw down extra heat in recent years is a mystery, and one we badly need to understand. But the main ideas have to do with possible shifts in winds and currents that are causing surface heat to be pulled down faster than before.
The deep-ocean theory is one of a half-dozen explanations that have been proffered for the warming plateau. Perhaps the answer will turn out to be some mix. And in any event, computer forecasts of climate change suggest that pauses in warming lasting a couple of decades should not surprise us.
Emphasis added throughout.
Well, I can pick out one of the 73 models in the Shepard graph that looks like it may have a 15-20 year flat spot. The rest of them more-or-less uniformly predicted year to year warming. The rest of that paragraph is scientist-speak for "if we fling a handful of spaghetti against the wall, some of it may stick!"
The problem is that the climate community cranked up all these computer models without really understanding all the mechanisms which influence climate. In modeling, history matching is the easy part. It is awfully easy to convince yourself that you are working with the most robust possible mathematical model based on the "goodness" of the history match. Put it in forecast mode, however, and it blows up.
It's referred to as the "uniqueness" problem. In other words, no matter how good a history match a model gives, there are other possible explanations that match history just as well. If you don't have a good grasp of all the mechanisms (which climate modellers clearly don't), you cannot possibly have a true, unique match. You have a bad model.
This is a common pitfall with oil and gas reservoir simulation, with a lot fewer variables and reasonably well understood physical mechanisms and a scope that is many orders of magnitude smaller than "global".
The admission of the degree of uncertainty and the lack of knowledge of controlling mechanisms is vindication for all of us skeptics who have been resisting the calls form James Hansen, Michael Mann, Al Gore and the Nobel Prize-winning IPCC to impose massive penalties on our economy.
Cross-posted at stevemaley.com.