A Century of Global Climate… Easier to Predict than a Hurricane’s Path?


I make a point of directing news and commentary from ideologically conflicting sources across my desk, and so it isn’t unusual for me to see a headline like, “Harvey should be a warning to Trump that climate change is a global threat,” immediately following one like, “The Trouble With Connecting Harvey to Climate Change.”

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My own view on that contrast is much like Datechguy’s (via Instapundit):

Now as a person familiar with both mathematics and computer science, this [huge] variation [in predictions of the incoming hurricane’s likely path] is not odd, in fact it’s completely understandable. After all a computer model is based on the best possible guesses from the available data and hurricanes are “complex natural phenomena that involve multiple interacting processes” so there is nothing at all odd about there being a 850 mile variation as to where it will it.  As we get closer to Sunday and we have true data to input the variation in the models will correspondingly decrease.Now apply this to climate change models telling us we face disaster in 100 years.You aren’t dealing with a single “complex natural phenomena that involve multiple interacting processes” you are dealing with EVERY complex natural phenomena that involve multiple interacting processes that exists on the earth. Every single additional item you add increases the variation of the data models. Furthermore you are also dealing with variations in the sun, variations in the orbits of the earth, its moon and more.

Furthermore, as the post points out, those advocating alarmism on climate change have financial incentive to do so in a coordinated “consensus” kind of way, whereas the incentive for those predicting hurricanes that will play out over the following week is mainly to be as accurate as they can be.  The hurricane trackers aren’t asking us to hand over vast quantities of our resources, not to mention our rights, to them.  They’re just trying to do a job, and because they’ll have liability for their predictions in the near future, they’re much more controlled about their claims.

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  • Mario

    I don’t have any particular knowledge about weather or climate, but there’s nothing inherently wrong with the idea that small-scale effects are harder to predict than long-scale trends. If you were dropping rocks onto a loaded wheelbarrow, I couldn’t tell you where any particular rock would land, but I could make a reasonable prediction about when it will be overloaded.

    • Justin Katz

      You’re imposing an inapplicable simplicity to the larger-scale prediction (the wheelbarrow). The point of the above post is that the large-scale predictions aren’t just larger-scale, but also complex.

      Suppose people are, by no pattern you can discern, arriving and moving the wheelbarrow around as you fill it, sometimes taking it away, sometimes switching it out for one of a different shape, moving it around at different speeds, sometimes emptying it, and so on.