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How much nonsense is allowed in science?
Can one disagree on “climate change”?

Posted by Arnd Bernaerts, 02 November 2010

 Consensus or no consensus, pro and contra, skeptics and no-skeptics, marks the main battle line in the ‘climate change’ debate. The confrontation of arguments is fierce. The blogs of “Pro Views”, “Lukewarmers”, “Skeptical Views” demonstrate daily that they disagree. What is not asked, whether the used term “climate change” makes any sense. The question is about the term itself. Is it possible to agree on something which is an empty phrase? Jointly the skeptics and no-skeptics sing the song of “climate change”, and thus miss to organise the debate in a manner that would turn the debate in a more fruitful discussion across the lines. The matter was raised in recent climate blogs, which are, with reference to blog subject and according their date of placing, hereafter reproduced.
 

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At blog: Climate etc: “What constitutes “dangerous” climate change?” by Judith Curry (05.Oct. 2010) Judith Curry: “So, what actually constitutes “dangerous” climate change? ……The answer depends on societal values and vulnerability/resilience, which vary regionally and culturally and even among individuals within regions and culture.” 

# Lewis Deane | October 7, 2010 at 6:27 pm | Reply : “This place is for thinking, pure thinking!”
Fair enough, but kindly be consequent. What sense does it makes to ask: what constitutes “dangerous” climate change, if a reasonable scientific definition for CLIMATE is not given. The UNFCCC has none, but only defines “climate change” and “climate system”, which is a laugh but not serious, as explained here: http://www.whatisclimate.com/b202-open-letter.html
Trying to compensate the deficiencies of UNFCCC with the WMO definition that: “..in a narrow sense Climate is usually defined as the “average weather…” ( details here: http://www.wmo.int/pages/themes/climate/understanding_climate.php ), is a useless exercise either, if nothing is said about the meaning of “weather”. WMO offers nothing, and AMS Glossary says:
 ____The “present weather” table consists of 100 possible conditions,
____with 10 possibilities for “past weather”, while
____Popularly, weather is thought of in terms of temperature, humidity, precipitation, cloudiness, visibility, and wind.
(In detail discussed at: http://www.whatisclimate.com/b206_need_to_talk_July_2010.html )

As soon as “climate” would be defined in scientific relevant and clear manner, it would presumably not be to difficult to discuss with some success what constitutes: dangerous changes.

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At blog: Climate etc: “Disagreement” by Judith Curry (27. Oct. 2010) . Judith Curry: “While my goal is to build bridges, I realize that there is no hope of eliminating disagreement on the climate change issue.”

· Comment:  ArndB

One of the main difficulties to agree on „Climate Change“ derives from the completely insufficiency of the term CLIMATE. Like the word WEATHER it is merely an ‘image’ in our daily life, a personnel, individual, and experienced observation. It is a layman’s expression, and reflects in no way the physical dynamic that govern the ocean and atmospheric processes. Both terms are scientifically irrelevant, and if used by academics in their professional work, or in communication with the general public and politics it is casing “confusion” and misunderstanding, to say the least.
Discussed at: http://www.whatisclimate.com
Two outstanding meteorologist had this to say not a long time ago:
____”Only thirty years ago climatology was generally regarded as the mere dry-as-dust bookkeeping end of meteorology.” H.H. Lamb, Meteorological Office Bracknell, Berkshire (UK), “The New Look of Climatology”, NATURE, Vol. 223, September 20, 1969, pp.1209ff.

____”This is obviously the decade in which climate is coming into its own. You hardly heard the word professionally in the 1940s. It was a layman’s word. Climatologists were the halt and the lame. And as for the climatologists in public service, in the British service you actually, had to be medically disabled in order to get into the climatological division ! Climatology was a menial occupation that came on the pecking scale somewhat below the advertising profession. It was clearly not the age of climate.” F. Kenneth Hare, 1979; „The Vaulting of Intellectual Barriers: The Madison Thrust in Climatology“, Bulletin American Meteorological Society , Vol. 60, 1979, p. 1171 – 1174.
CLIMATE and WEATHER are still today only layman’s term.

                                             
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At blog: Kimazwiebel: “A quote provided by Mathis Hampel”, by Hans von Storch (29.Oct.2010) Hans v. Storch says: Mathis Hampel, who writes a dissertation on "cultural contingency, social and epistemic authority of climate knowledge production" at the University of Venice, Italy, suggested to publish this quote without further discussion.”

  • BloggerComment: aber (October 29, 2010 3:31 PM) said...

__Lay person (BC and earlier)- in the main-: Climate is the weather at a given place.
__Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519): Water is the driver of nature.
__J.W.v.Goethe said to Ekerman (1806): „The objects observed by meteorology are indeed similar to the living ones which we can daily observe in the living and creating process. They proceed from the assumption of a synthesis, but on so manifold in its aspects that the human observer cannot encompass it.”
__J.W.v.Goethe (Faust II, 1832):
         “Everything comes from water.
          Everything is maintained through water.
          Ocean, give us your eternal power”
__W. Köppen (1875-1919): “The weather changes, while the climate stays”.
__WMO: “Climate is the average weather over a longer period of time (or “the statistical description…of the mean..” .
__UNFCCC: none. (more at: http://www.whatisclimate.com )
__My suggestion: “Climate is the continuation of the oceans by other means”, expressed in a talk (and paper) at GKSS, 04.Dec.1992; Heft 4, VdFFdGKSS-Forschungszentrum, p.53. See also: Letter to, NATURE, 1992, “Climate Change”, Vol. 360, p. 292


RE-Comment: Mathis Hampel (October 29, 2010 5:04 PM) said...“thanks for pointing out whatisclimate.com , have you noticed that all quotes, including the one I posted, are by male European adults!? for me climate is manifested in memories about practices in weather. (dis)agree?”


RE-Comment: Bloggeraber (October 29, 2010 6:11 PM) said...
# “climate is manifested in memories about practices in weather. (dis)agree?”
Positive. To explain the matter, in the direction you mentioned, a comment posted athttp://judithcurry.com/2010/10/27/disagreement/ yesterday it repeated hereafter: ArndB | October 28, 2010 at 6:22 am One of the main difficulties to agree on „Climate Change“ derives from the completely insufficiency of the term CLIMATE. Like the word WEATHER it is merely an ‘image’ in our daily life, a personnel, individual, and experienced observation. It is a layman’s expression, and reflects in no way the physical dynamic that govern the ocean and atmospheric processes. Both terms are scientifically irrelevant, and if used by academics in their professional work, or in communication with the general public and politics it is casing “confusion” and misunderstanding, to say the least.

                                        
XXXXXX Dennis Bray says: “In a recent posting Rob Maris conducted a survey to determine what makes a climate change skeptic. It received both criticism and praise. Mention was made that skepticism might reside in the science-policy interface.”

# Dennis Bray says: “Definition in general is concerned with the systematic ordering of categories or concepts and with the nature of relation between entities, creating a mutually exclusiveness, and addressing that which is unique”
Let me say it more simple: “A definition is a (mutual) mean to know what one is talking about.

Now, if one wants to analyse who is, or not is, a climate change skeptic requires a definition of “Climate Change”, and as Climate is defined a average (or statistical) weather, there needs to be a definition on Weather in the first place. A original definition on WEATHER does not exist. See my previous comments to the Klimazwiebel post “A quote provided by Mathis Hampel “ (Fri.29Oct2010). Who than can know what “climate change” means, and either be pro or contra in this respect?

The Glossary of the American Meteorological Society (AMS) says that weather is: “The state of the atmosphere, mainly with respect to its effects upon life and human activities”, AMS thereon breaks the weather down into:
___The “present weather” table consists of 100 possible conditions,
___with 10 possibilities for “past weather”, while
___Popularly, weather is thought of in terms of temperature, humidity, precipitation, cloudiness, visibility, and wind.
(In detail HERE at: http://www.whatisclimate.com/b206_need_to_talk_July_2010.html )

Discussing and categorising ‘pro’ and ‘contra’ actually requires to say precisely what physical conditions (or parameters) of the present, past, or future weather conditions one is talking about. Summarizing it under the meaningless term “climate change” causes serious confusion and misunderstanding. (see UNFCCC: Para. 2.: “Climate change” means a change of climate which....”). More at: http://www.whatisclimate.com/b202-open-letter.htm
Arnd Bernaerts

 RE-Comment Dennis Bray (November 1, 2010 4:56 PM ) said:
@aber You say ‘A definition is a (mutual) mean to know what one is talking about.’ In that sense I think ‘climate change’ is quite clear. From a simple dictionary: ‘Climate - The prevailing atmospheric phenomena and conditions of temperature, humidity, wind, etc.’ Not exactly a scientific definition but suffice here. ‘Change - becoming different.’ Hence the prevailing atmospheric phenomena and conditions of temperature, humidity, wind, etc. are becoming different - I have no problem with that. Climate is a bit like a summary of weather I think. Under what conditions would we have wind change, humidity change, temperature change ... well, perhaps climate change?

  • RE-Comment aber (November 1, 2010 8:26 PM)

@ Dennis Bray: “Comment I have no problem with that. Climate is a bit like a summary of weather I think.”
I am aware that the atmospheric science is living happily without a scientifically reasonable definition of CLIMATE and WEATHER, although they use this layman expressions not only among them, but also in communication with the public and politics. Instead of ensuring minimum academic requirements, namely a clear language and definitions, it is so inviting to keep the matter discussed vague to the point of nonsense. At least it was extreme successful over the last three decades. Why caring what does it mean: “climate change scepticism”.

Re: Hans von Storch (November 1, 2010 10:18 PM) said...
“I think we have a very good definition of climate - it is the statistics of weather, and weather is the short term state of the atmosphere, ocean, hydrosphere etc. Would you agree that this is a reasonable definition, aber? I could do it a bit more formal, but that may not be necessary.
A bit of mathematics sometimes helps.
Your comment was not really helpful, if I may say so. In fact, it was just - a piece of stupid rambling.”

 Re-Comment: aber (November 2, 2010 1:28 AM) & (November 2, 2010 8:32 AM) said..:
 
@ Hans von Storch (November 1, 2010 10:18 PM) said... “we have a very good definition of climate - it is the statistics of weather, and weather is the short term state of the atmosphere, ocean, hydrosphere etc. Would you agree that this is a reasonable definition, aber?”

No, defiantly not! What you offer as ‘weather’ is actually a copy of the UNFCCC definition (Art.1 (3)):  “….the atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere and geosphere and their interactions.” Even glossaries (i.a. AMS) are not offering such an empty phrase.  And sorry, statistics of weather remain “statistics of weather”.  Unfortunately your book with  Francis Zwiers. Cambridge U press, 1999, neither provides a reasonable meaning, which is not a mere use of a layman’s expression. 
Allow me to close with a sentence I wrote almost 20 years ago : “For decades, the real question has  been who is responsible for the climate. Climate should have been defined as ‘the  continuation of the oceans by other means’. Thus, the 1982 (Law of the Sea) Convention  could long since have been used to  protect the climate. After all, it is the  most powerful tool with which to force  politicians and the community of states into actions.“ in: Letter to the Editor, NATURE 1992, “Climate Change”, Vol. 360, p. 292. 
It was also the subject of a talk at GKSS (4th Dec. 1992), and paper (Heft 4, VdFFdGKSS-Forschungszentrum, pages 53, in English at:
http://www.whatisclimate.com/     Arnd Bernaerts

 CONCLUDING REMARKS

It is the task of the concerned science to define the meaning of terms they use. That it might be difficult to define climate and weather can not serve as excuse. No matter whether weather consist of 50, 100, or 200 conditions, the meaning needs to be expressed in a reasonable way, or it necessary to say clearly that it is impossible. Inexcusable to use layman’s expression. If science wishes to use the word CLIMATE nevertheless, to emphasize for the general public what matters in this respect, it would be helpful to say: “Climate is the continuation of the oceans by other means”, as the local and global weather is sustained, and dependent on the conditions of the oceans and seas.    

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ADDENDUM (15. November 2010): 
Dennis Bray and Hans von Storch on CLIMATE

Dennis Bray said...(14): @ all those who seem to have trouble with the definition of climate. Isn't it a 30 year statistical mean? I really didn't think it was necessary to elaborate as it is the word 'skeptic' that was being scrutinized. November 2, 2010 8:21 AM   

Hans von Storch said...(15) : This term "30 year mean" is not really helpful, as it my be misunderstood as the mean value across 30 years (or an estimate thereof).

It is meant as - a statistical parameter estimated form 30 years of data (why 30 years is a nother story) - and most estimates are formed by (weighted) sums, such as variance. Obviously, variance (or standard deviation) is a climate component as well; in this catgeory are also correlations (in time, in space) - even spectra if you resort to power spectra; if you refer to maxima, percentiles, extreme values, L-moments or EOFs, CCAs etc however, this link to "(weighted) sums over 30 years of data" breaks down.

No, the "definition" "30 year statistical mean" is not reasonable. The climate is the statistics of 30 (or any other interval) years of meteorological (oceanographic etc) data, which includes co-variability across time, space and variables.  November 2, 2010 8:32 AM


Further reading
http://www.whatisclimate.com/