“Comment And Question About Some Research Into Non-Linearity And Climate” By Philip Richens

I was sent a very interesting e-mail by Philip Richens which I have reproduced below with his permission.

Dear Professor Pielke,

I noticed the work of Shaun Lovejoy and his colleagues on non-linearity and climate and thought how relevant it was with respect to your paper with Jose Rial and also to the work of Demetris Koutsoyiannis. I’d be very interested to find out what you think about Lovejoy’s work, if you are happy to offer this opinion. Here is a link to his university web page, http://www.physics.mcgill.ca/~gang/Lovejoy.htm, and here is an informal article outlining some of his group’s current research, http://www.physics.mcgill.ca/~gang/eprints/eprintLovejoy/EOS.12-1-09_Lovejoy.pdf.

A couple of things that particularly caught my eye were:

1/ Identification of distinct weather and climate regimes in temperature series, with scaling found in both regimes. If I understand correctly, this finding supports your idea of climate as an initial value problem, and also is relevant to ice age attribution. See http://www.physics.mcgill.ca/~gang/eprints/eprintLovejoy/neweprint/Emergence.climate.merge.25.10.11.pdf.

2/ Identification of cascades within the atmosphere on all scales. They also find these structures within GCMs, at least down to the grid limits. Possibly this relates to the issue of parametrization of clouds and other small scale processes within GCMs. See http://www.physics.mcgill.ca/~gang/eprints/eprintLovejoy/neweprint/Atmos.Res.8.3.10.finalsdarticle.pdf.

My impression is that this work is important, and yet not widely known. I could find no reference on your blog – even though Koutsoyiannis’ work has featured several times – and I could find no references to it in AR4. I’m simply very interested to find out what you think about it.

Yours sincerely,
Philip Richens

Philip is correct that the work of Shaun Lovejoy has been under-appreciated in the climate science debate. His EOS article, which Philip alerts us to, is

S. Lovejoy, et al. (2009), Nonlinear Geophysics: Why We Need It, Eos Trans. AGU, 90, 48, doi:10.1029/2009EO480003.

The article contains the  text [highlight added]

The undeniable urgency of floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, or climate change (to name a few) has tended to reduce science to a system for the elaboration of “products” and “deliverables” with understanding as an incidental by- product. In comparison, concepts of nonlinear geophysics can provide a rational basis for the statistics and models of natural systems including hazards, which previously were treated by ad hoc methods.”

“….sensitive dependence on initial conditions is now understood to be a commonplace feature of the real world. But the chaos revolution is far from over…..”

The systematic neglect of these resolution dependencies has many consequences including biases in estimating the Earth’s energy budget with implications for climate feedbacks [e.g., Lovejoy et al., 2009]. This is potentially significant because a negative instead of a positive feedback greatly reduces planetary warming due to greenhouse gases [Spencer and Braswell, 2009].”

“….in the absence of societal support for very promising alternative nonlinear approaches, applications will continue to be deprived of this knowledge and resources will continue to be squandered on state- of the- art techniques informed by inappropriate theories. Thus, funding agencies, academic institutions, journal editors, and individual researchers need to see the future potential of nonlinear geophysics to solve science problems that have consistently been beyond the reach of traditional methods. NG methods thus make our understanding of the world more complete.”

Shaun Lovejoy and his co-authors’ comments, and associated research, go to the core of identifying a serious problem with the IPCC-type approach to climate science. 

 The multi-decadal global climate model predictions is NOT a boundary-value problem but an initial value-value problem as I discuss in my post

Climate Science Myths And Misconceptions – Post #4 On Climate Prediction As An Boundary Value Problem

The consequences of the IPCC and others in assuming climate prediction is a boundary-value problem is that they are spending huge amount of funds and computer time on preparing regional climate forecasts of the coming decades for the impacts community that are not only without any skill, but are grossly misleading the public and policymakers on what are climate may be decades from now.

I discuss this failure in a number of weblog posts; e.g.

A Literature Debate On The Lack Of Skill Of Global Climate Model Multi-Decadal Predictions As Reported In The Peer Reviewed Literature By Demetris Koutsoyiannis

Another Scientifically Flawed Claim Of Skillful Multi-Decadal Regional Climate Predictions – This Time It Is In The Intermountain West Climate Summary

The Failure Of Dynamic Downscaling As Adding Value to Multi-Decadal Regional Climate Prediction

Ignored Request For NSF To Respond On The Lack Of Value Of Regional Downscaling Of Climate Forecasts Decades From Now

I appreciate Philip Richens alerting us to the research work of  Shawn Lovejoy and his colleagues.

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