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Rebuttal to 'Scientist's Can't Even Predict The Weather Right'

Posted on 24 January 2011 by dansat

This claim is based more on an appeal to emotion than fact. The inference is that climate predictions, decades into the future, cannot be possibly right when the weather forecast for the next day has some uncertainty.

In spite of the claim in this myth, short term weather forecasts are highly accurate and have improved dramatically over the last three decades. However, slight errors in initial conditions make a forecast beyond two weeks nearly impossible.   

Atmospheric science students are taught "weather is what you get and climate is the weather you expect". This is why this common skeptical argument doesn't hold water. Climate models are not predicting day to day weather systems. Instead, they are predicting climate averages.

A record high is an example of weather. Increasing numbers of record highs is a symptom of a changing climate. From Meehl et. al

Figure 1: Record highs are an example of extreme weather, but an increase in record highs versus record lows is a symptom of a changing climate. From Meehl et al.* 

A change in temperature of 7º Celsius from one day to the next is barely worth noting when you are discussing weather. Seven degrees, however, make a dramatic difference when talking about climate. When the Earth's AVERAGE temperature was 7ºC cooler than the present, ice sheets a mile thick were on top of Manhattan! 

A good analogy of the difference between weather and climate is to consider a swimming pool. Imagine that the pool is being slowly filled. If someone dives in there will be waves. The waves are weather, and the average water level is the climate. A diver jumping into the pool the next day will create more waves, but the water level (aka the climate) will be higher as more water flows into the pool. 

In the atmosphere the water hose is increasing greenhouse gases. They will cause the climate to warm but we will still have changing weather (waves).  Climate scientists use models to forecast the average water level in the pool, not the waves. A good basic explanation of climate models is available in Climate Change- A Multidisciplinary Approach by William Burroughs. 

Source: AMS Policy Statement on Weather Analysis and Forecasting. Bull. Amer Met. Soc., 79, 2161-2163

*Image source: Meehl, G. A., C. Tebaldi, G. Walton, D. Easterling, and L. McDaniel (2009), Relative increase of record high maximum temperatures compared to record low minimum temperatures in the U.S., Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, L23701, doi:10.1029/2009GL040736.

This blog post is the Basic Rebuttal of the skeptic argument 'Scientists can't even predict weather'. It was written by Dan Satterfield, Chief Meteorologist for WHNT TV (CBS) in Huntsville and writer of Dan's Wild, Wild Science Journal.

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Comments 1 to 50 out of 59:

  1. I haven't yet come across a technically educated skeptic that uses this argument. However, I have heard it from non technical people. Actually, I'm generally surprised at how accurate weather predictions are. I wish the climate models could match this accuracy.
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  2. I don't know, there have been some pretty impressive predictions made by climate modelling over the years, like the one in this Skeptical Science post. They tend to be longer-range forecasts, so a lot of the predictions made in the past decade or so wont be realised for some time to come. Of course, you could always take the approach that, so far, climate science has tended to underestimate the rate and impacts of global warming...
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  3. I guess climatologists have been perceived as...
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  4. I want some of what he was smoking...
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  5. You want accurate. I'll give you accurate Followed this one from Hot Topic (I think). I'm keeping it foreverandever.
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  6. Failing to understand the difference between short term and long term averages and their predictability is a common failure among the 'innumerate'. Innumeracy is as big a problem as illiteracy -- if not more so, since people instinctively recognize the latter as bad but tolerate the former all too easily.
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  7. small suggestion, the sentence: "However, slight errors in initial conditions make a forecast beyond two weeks nearly impossible." might be: "However, slight errors in initial conditions make a weather forecast beyond two weeks nearly impossible." very pedantic, I know. But then the use of cherry-picking and selective quotation by some, calls for that.
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  8. This sort of conversation is the type one would have with another bus user whilst waiting for a bus. Those that insist on driving and never use public transport, probably avoid this type of reality and only encounter it in the comments of a newspaper web site. There isn't a lot that can change the intellectual abilities of the people you talk to, what is done, is done! But what you can do is spend some time explaining the issue in terms that they might understand. There is no guarantee that even if the person you were talking to was better educated, that they would be more inclined to agree with you. See this report: http://environmentalresearchweb.org/cws/article/news/44825
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  9. I agree there is a clear lack of understanding in the public domain of the difference between weather forecasting and climate predictions. Governments are actually to blame for this, but so is the science community because of statements that are made. Many climate models are presnted to the public as fact, in 50 years the planet WILL be 7°C warmer, the ice-caps WILL have melted and the ocean WILL be 7m deeper.. This is BAD science, or at least the reporting of it. It should be worded so that people understand this is a prediction of what MIGHT happen if things stay as they are. The problem is we cannot predict what will happen this time tomorrow, let alone in 50 years. A major series of volcanic events can alter the weather very rapidly, many of the events predicted may have effects that have not been foreseen or may not be as severe as people and models estimate. The truth is we understand the climate and the weather very poorly, Yes reasonable predictions can be made over a few days to a week, but this is based as much on experience as calculations. The atmosphere of our planet is highly complicated, the interactions it undergoes within it and with external influences is immense, and we have only scratched the surface in our understanding. Models may be getting better, the information we put in is of a higher quality, but there is still those unknowns, the uncertainties and the unknowable. When climate change is presented to the public as predictions instead of facts, then there may be less and less arguments raised against it.
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  10. A thought experiment based on a double pendulum is the best way of explaining this canard that I have been able to come up with. Weather is chaotic, and inherently unpredictable (beyond a short prediction horizon) but that doesn't mean the long term statistical properties of the weather (a.k.a. climate) are chaotic or unpredictable. Likewise the the exact path followed by a double pendulum can't be predicted beyond a short prediction horizon, but you can make predictions about its statistical behaviour if you for example you stuck a large magnet to one side (follow the link for pretty picture and discussion of simulation based prediction).
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  11. Dikran, maybe weather is somewhat chaotic, but the causes of it aren't. Same goes for climate. Excluding unpredictable events such as something big hitting the Earth, the main inputs that cause weather are well known, or known well enough. Those inputs cause well known behaviours globally. There are actually more knowns than there are unknowns (beginning to sound like Rumsfeld!). But the ultimate outcomes may be less predictable. In some respects it is the scale that is a problem. Most people probably don't realise that the machines and equipment they use, only work reliably because someone has worked out the statistical probability of it failing and using components that minimise the probability of the product failing. All they see is a product that works for x years. They don't think that reliability is 'engineered' and they just get the engineered result. They then expect the same to be done with a system that is not engineered and have expectations that go beyond what is practical. I think half the issue is the huge expectations people have today.
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  12. LandyJim wrote : "Many climate models are presnted to the public as fact, in 50 years the planet WILL be 7°C warmer, the ice-caps WILL have melted and the ocean WILL be 7m deeper.. This is BAD science, or at least the reporting of it." Sounds more like BAD reporting to me, or do you have actual examples ? LandyJim also wrote : "When climate change is presented to the public as predictions instead of facts, then there may be less and less arguments raised against it." The former is currently the way climate change is reported by the people involved in studying it - just have a look at the last IPCC report. The latter will never be possible with a certain section of society, because they don't want to accept the facts. Unfortunately, enough of them have enough influence to impede progress : that is the real problem.
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  13. #9: "Many climate models are presnted to the public as fact" On the contrary, I find the language of climate models overly timid. See the thread 'IPCC is alarmist' for examples of consistent use of conditional language. "When climate change is presented to the public as predictions instead of facts, then there may be less and less arguments" Wishful thinking at best. The primary tactic of the 'argument' community is to create doubt via making noise. See Oreskes' book for an exceptionally well-documented history of this.
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  14. The example of 7 degrees change in average should perhaps be supplemented with a sentence on the length of time versus the type of prediction. The GAT just dropped 0.1 degrees in two days which could not have been predicted a week ago. Last year a rise of 0.3 degrees in a month was only as predictable as the El Nino with a few months skill at best. At the same time that we are inflicted with unpredictable day-to-day changes in albedo, week-to-week changes in atmospheric circulation, month-to-month in ocean circulation, the GAT plods upward decade-to-decade reflecting AGW and (to various debatable extents, long term cycles). Prediction of AGW is deterministic and can be greatly helped with empirical studies (e.g. measurements of actual OLR changes from feedback processes). The greatest uncertaintly in AGW predictions is the changes in weather itself, e.g., will AO become more positive or more negative (or cycle between both extremes or neither)? Temperature data source http://discover.itsc.uah.edu/amsutemps/data/amsu_daily_85N85S_ch05.r002.txt
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  15. "A change in temperature of 7º Celsius from one day to the next is barely worth noting when you are discussing weather." Wow, 7C is 12.8F; 80F vs 92.6F, 20F vs 32.6F are not worth noting? The whole post lost some credibility with that statement. The pool analogy is a good one... up to a point. One question is why has the pool level not gone up much, if at all, in the last 10 years even though the water has been flowing in at an ever increasing rate. This is not to deny that water is flowing into the pool, just that things are not so simple, and that there are still some things we do not have a good explanation for.
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  16. I've met this one. It can actually be addressed without getting into chaos theory by looking at the structure of the formal argument... 1. Weather in unpredicatable (beyond x days...) 2. Given that weather is unpredictable, it necessarily follows that climate is unpredictable. What is climate? Roughly, the statistics of weather. Thus: 1. Weather in unpredicatable (beyond x days...) 2. Given that weather is unpredictable, it necessarily follows that the statistics of weather are unpredictable. The argument falls if either premise is incorrect. The second premise takes the form: "Given that X is unpredictable, it necessarily follows that the statistics of X are unpredictable." Which can be falsified by example: Given that dice are unpredictable, it necessarily follows that the statistics of dice are unpredictable. Given that lottery machines are unpredictable, it necessarily follows that the statistics of lottery machines are unpredictable. Given that crimes are unpredictable, it necessarily follows that the statistics of crime are unpredictable. Given that hard disk failures are unpredictable, it necessarily follows that the statistics of hard disk failures are unpredictable.
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  17. Good point, Notcynical. As a high school student, we were shone An Inconvenient Truth by several well-meaning teachers. The result was polarizing to say the least. The movie was alarmist and non-scientific. Are there any charts available which plot the rise and fall of other greenhouse gases?
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  18. #9 LandyJim "in 50 years the planet WILL be 7°C warmer, the ice-caps WILL have melted and the ocean WILL be 7m deeper." Oh come now. I myself might believe that abrupt climate change might be something that we face, but I don't make rash statements like this. Unless you can substantiate this claim, it amounts nothing less than "scaremongering".
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  19. Further where did you happen to get that models are predicting this in the first place Jim?
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  20. @15 "" Wow, 7C is 12.8F; 80F vs 92.6F, 20F vs 32.6F are not worth noting? The whole post lost some credibility with that statement." You are making an argument without substance. I just pulled the daily average records for Nephi, Utah (station 426135 in the Historical Climatology Network - a fairly random pick), wrote a small script to compute the absolute difference between successive days (excluding dates with missing data) and of the 23972 date pairs, 1302 of them had *at least* 12F difference. That is an average of about 1.6 times per month. Even limiting it to 13F, we get 938 instances for an average of a bit over 1.1 times/month. Something that happens, on average, more than once a month is not unusual enough to warrant special note. As for the 'One question is why has the pool level not gone up much, if at all, in the last 10 years' comment, that belongs over in the Did global warming stop in 1998? thread.
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  21. I used to use a gambling analogy to explain this to people: you can't predict the result of an individual pull on a slot machine, but you know the results will conform with the house odds over the longer term. Unfortunately, I've found that most of the people who find this "skeptical" argument compelling also don't quite get the concept of house odds. They're more likely to think about outcomes in terms of fate. Which is not all that different from "skeptics," really; they're both very bad gamblers, IMO, with a strong faith in last-minute miracles and a strong tendency to downplay their losses.
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  22. Please note the unnecessary apostrophe in the title of this post.
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  23. The Ville Actually scale isn't nearly as much of a problem as you might think. In a Taylor series expansion, the more terms you add, the more accurate the approximation to reality, even though to get a completely accurate model you often need an infinite series. But that doesn't mean that even very crude Taylor series expansions with only a couple of terms don't provide a useful approximation. Similarly for GCMs, the higher the spatial and temporal resolution (the more "scale" you include), you become able to make more detailed projections on finer spatial and temporal scales. It isn't a matter of you can model climate or you can't, it is a matter of how accurate and how refined the projections you can make. Using current technology, GCMs work well at global and regional scales (e.g. continents), but don't have the resolution to make useful projections on sub-regional or national scales. So the "scale problem" is not a problem as long as the appropriate caveats are placed on the projections (and scientists being scientists, the papers are generally full of such caveats). As GEP Box (famous statistician - if that isn't a contradiction) said "all models are wrong - but some are useful".
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  24. An excellent analogy John. I will be sure to use that in the future. Sure beats me trying to explain to people that weather is an initial value/conditions "problem", while predicting climate is a boundary forcing "problem". But as you note it is a red herring and an appeal to emotion. Yet another trick employed by "skeptics" and contrarians. The sad truth is that many weather agencies do not provide the public verification statistics, or make them easily available. So the misconception has been that forecasts are not good-- using anecdotal evidence to validate forecasts is absolutely awful. The UK Met office does an excellent job of communicating their verification stats to the public.
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  25. LandyJim @9, "Many climate models are presnted to the public as fact, in 50 years the planet WILL be 7°C warmer, the ice-caps WILL have melted and the ocean WILL be 7m deeper." I'm afraid that this statement is false, at least how it pertains to the science and the IPCC and the governments which signed off on the IPCC reports. Please note the following statement from the IPCC: "An expert assessment based on the combination of available constraints from observations (assessed in Chapter 9) and the strength of known feedbacks simulated in the models used to produce the climate change projections in this chapter indicates that the equilibrium global mean SAT warming for a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2), or ‘equilibrium climate sensitivity’, is likely to lie in the range 2°C to 4.5°C, with a most likely value of about 3°C. Equilibrium climate sensitivity is very likely larger than 1.5°C. For fundamental physical reasons, as well as data limitations, values substantially higher than 4.5°C still cannot be excluded, but agreement with observations and proxy data is generally worse for those high values than for values in the 2°C to 4.5°C range. The ‘transient climate response’ (TCR, defined as the globally averaged SAT change at the time of CO2 doubling in the 1% yr–1 transient CO2 increase experiment) is better constrained than equilibrium climate sensitivity. The TCR is very likely larger than 1°C and very unlikely greater than 3°C based on climate models, in agreement with constraints from the observed surface warming." [IPCC AR4 WGI page 749] Now compare that with what WUWT says, just one example but there are many more: "New paper from Lindzen demonstrates low climate sensitivity with observational data" [here] Anyhow, we are getting way off topic here...
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  26. Great analogy about the pool and the hose and the waves. Couldn't we just as easily say the input from the hose was increased radiation from solar activity? More record highs than lows provides an increasing average which is exactly what one would expect from a warming climate.
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  27. Dikran@24 I meant scale as perceived by a human. eg. A person only experiences a weather event at a very localised level and that can seem highly erratic. One can be walking along and one minute you are in a shower, the next you aren't. This localisation and detail is impossible to predict, but at the greater scale (say) from space, the weather event may seem more uniform and conforming to obvious turbulent behaviour. It's like picking up a lump of wood, it has some obvious characteristics that are well known and common to all lumps of wood, but go down to the atomic scale and things are a lot different. Molecules are moving and vibrating and it would be difficult to equate what was happening in molecule land with the formation of tree rings etc. In the analogy, a typical Joe or Jane is living with the atoms, not seeing the bigger picture. They are just interested in buying a reliable car and knowing what the weather will be like in the afternoon. Probably should have explained in more detail. My comment was really to do with peoples perceptions. The vast majority of people think on a basic level on a daily basis. I happily watch science on TV. But the vast majority would prefer to watch a soap, or reality TV. If you start talking about science, you just get a blank face or a frown!
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  28. #15 notcynical "Wow, 7C is 12.8F; 80F vs 92.6F, 20F vs 32.6F are not worth noting?" I you call a notation on a web page stating that there is an abnormal temperature trend as being noteworthy. Take London Canada for instance. The overnight temperatures are expected to rise by 19.8oC (35.64oF) in a 24 hour period. You won't find any hoopla in the media about it though. It's just simple weather variability. A cold front moved into the region and now it's being pushed out. Big deal. Now if the temperature were to change from -22.8oC to 22.80C in a 24 hour period, then it might be noteworthy.
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  29. As we say where I live, if you don't like the weather just wait 15 minutes, it will change. A 12F change in a day is not newsworthy, other than the few minutes spent on the weather forecast on the nightly news.
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  30. Rhetorically challenged? Try: Weather is local and brief; Climate is global and long lasting. Weather is the part; Climate is the whole thing. Weather is detailed and can be predicted accurately, within a week, 90% of the time. Climate is broad and basic and can be predicted adequately decades ahead. Climatologists may not be able to tell you the exact temperature or whether it rained or not in your neighborhood on June 1st 10,000 B.C.; but they can tell you if the general conditions where wet or dry; hot or cold.
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  31. By the way, these are the official performances the weather prediction skill of various organisations. http://www.emc.ncep.noaa.gov/gmb/STATS/STATS.html
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  32. This one uses another interface. http://www.emc.ncep.noaa.gov/gmb/STATS_vsdb/
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  33. The Ville at 23:32 PM on 24 January, 2011, re "They don't think that reliability is 'engineered' and they just get the engineered result." This does apply to weather forecasts as there is considerable variation in the quality of weather forecasts available and it can be a case of getting what you pay for. For most people, probably including most who post here, weather forecasts are of academic interest and I doubt that few, if any, would be subscribing and paying for private forecasting services. However those who have a vested interest in the future weather, be it those in the agriculture sector, or insurance companies offering rain insurance or the like, do not rely on the free forecasting services even if they are being supplied by the major forecasting bodies who generally have the resources and authority of their government backers behind them. Instead, and this is where the "engineered reliability" comes in, they will instead rely on those professional forecasters whose approach and ability to think outside the box when it comes to compiling forecasts, has them years ahead of the major bodies who are normally considered the authority. Many jokes are made about the record of our own BOM and CSIRO forecasts, as are the UK's Met office recent record, but people will joke about something that appears not to be paid for directly out of their own pocket. However when someone is paying hundreds or thousands of dollars for reliable forecasts, where the outcomes and gains or losses can be measured in hundreds of thousands Dollars, then one can be sure that the "engineered reliability" is carefully taken into consideration, and that is what private forecasting services are able to demonstrate. There is no doubt that as time progresses the forecasts from the major services has improved, but so has those of the private services, the lag appears to me to be at least a decade, that being they time between new indicators being identified and utilised by those operating at the leading edge, and the main stream bodies encumbered with their bureaucracy and their need to serve their political paymasters.
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  34. I am often amazed at the accuracy of weather forecasting; it is not uncommon for the prediction be accurate down to the hour of precipitation onset. I find it instructive to read the 'technical discussion' offered by the weather service here in the US. This discussion will evaluate multiple models, indicate when they diverge and when they agree, and even offer comments on how small changes in storm path may result in large changes in weather outcome. It may be beyond the scope of a short discussion, but I think the accuracy of weather forecasting up to 10 -14 days in advance strengthens my confidence in climate models. Here is today's discussion for my area: http://forecast.weather.gov/product.php?site=NWS&issuedby=LOX&product=AFD&format=CI&version=1&glossary=1 It is not particularly interesting right now, but can give a very good idea of the confidence of predictions.
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  35. Another useful analogy perhaps to explain the difference between weather and climate: a gas. It is impossible to know the exact position and speed of every molecule in a gas, but it is perfectly possible to describe it’s behavior in macroscopic terms (temperature, volume, pressure), and to use that knowledge to generate electricity via a thermodynamic cycle. The knowledge of the microscopic scale isn't necessary to successfully predict the behavior on a macroscopic scale.
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  36. Snowhare #20 I don't know about "fairly random" Nephi, Utah, but I think most people would take note if, say, a forecast high for the next day was 80F and it turned out to be 92F. But, please note that I very much agree with what I think is a main point of the post, that a rise of 7C in the global average is enormously more significant than a day to day variation. Sorry if I didn't make that clear.
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  37. #17 Moderator Response: You are incorrect. See "Al Gore got it wrong." Maybe you don't have it all right either. See "Cool It" by Bjorn Lomborg
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  38. "Cool It" ! See Lomborg errors. Warning - there are a lot.
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  39. Notcynical:
    Maybe you don't have it all right either. See "Cool It" by Bjorn Lomborg
    Maybe we understand that Bjorn Lomborg knows as little about climate science as he does about population ecology and several other areas of science he has claimed to "debunk" over years. Working climate scientists who've vetted Inconvenient Truth have said that Gore got it mostly right. Perhaps an A rather than A+ but scientists reviewing Lomborg's "debunkings" of science have universally given him a failing grade.
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  40. I see JohnD@33 has completely missed the point of my comment and instead used it as an excuse for engineering advertising for commercial weather forecasting. Dear John, I couldn't really care how a forecast is paid for! The point was that when a physical product such as a washing machine is designed, the reliability of the product is also designed, this is achieved by manipulating the CAUSES that might increase/reduce reliability. The causes of the weather can not be engineered and any reliability of forecasting is governed by that fact. That is, there are definite limits that are controlled by the underlying science. So commercial and public weather forecasters will be limited as to how accurate they can ever become. I also pointed out that people have expectations that are to high, I think you have proven what I stated. eg. you have ridiculously high expectations of your own beliefs.
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  41. #28 Well I looked at the forecasts for London, Canada and I see your point. The forecasts are for the max temp to go from 29F to 16F from Saturday to Sunday and 8 to 21 from Tuesday to Wednesday. That's 2 jumps of 13 degrees within 5 days. Not quite 35.64F, but still noteworthy... or not? :)
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  42. @notcynical @ #41: I'd say, no, not really noteworthy. The relatively large day-to-day variations in weather are well known, and normal. If, on the other hand, a cold day in January for London, Canada, was 8F (-13.3C) now, then 7ºC worth of global warming would mean that a cold day in January was about -6C (21F). Similarly for the upper end - a warm January day that is 29F now (-1.7C) would then be around 42F (+5.3C). I don't know about you, but to me there's a big difference between -1.7C and +5.3C. Just ask the folks in Iqaluit, Canada. They traditionally have a snowmobile race on New Year's Day on the sea ice. They had to cancel it this year, because there was no ice... And think what that sort of temperature difference would mean over Greenland. Many areas of the ice sheet already get summer temperatures above freezing. What are the implications of that for sea level rise? Even well away from the freezing point, I know I'd rather deal with summer days around 30ºC (our forecast max for today), than 37ºC. And given that really hot summer days here hit 43ºC, I sincerely hope we don't get 7ºC of increase on that! (But we're much closer to the tropics, here in Brisbane, so any increase we see is likely to be much lower than for folks closer to the poles).
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  43. The Ville at 11:07 AM on 25 January, 2011, when considering a further observation made in your earlier post referred to, namely "But the ultimate outcomes may be less predictable", then I don't think I missed the point. The expectations that you referred to as people developing, are based on what they are lead to believe, by experts, will be the ultimate outcome, since humans generally do not possess a highly acute inbuilt natural instinct to sense coming changes in the weather ahead of time, as some animals are able to do so. Predicting ultimate outcomes is a separate matter to that of identifying the physical behavior of the weather itself. Predicting ultimate outcomes is all about producing forecasts, and forecasts are, just like your washing machine, a manufactured product. They have an engineered design, and require the input of raw materials, in the case of forecasts, raw data rather than raw minerals, however, in both cases, all have varying degrees of quality, which just as in the case of your washing machine, determines the ultimate reliability of the end product, the further in time that each product moves beyond the date on which it was produced. So to get back to the subject of this thread, just as washing machines have varying degrees of reliability, so too do forecasts. Where our differences may lie quite possibly, is not over which washing machine is the more reliable, but rather which forecasts are. Any expectations I may have are not too high, but rather based on that an engineered forecast with a proven track record will continue to yield reliable results, and more than that, the expectation that those who engineer such forecasts will most likely continue to be years ahead of others by continuing to correctly identify any new raw materials, indicators, and then incorporating them into the engineered design.
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  44. NickD #29 "...if you don't like the weather just wait 15 minutes" In Queensland they used to say, "Beautiful one day, perfect the next". Then the floods came.
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  45. johnd : can you reveal the names of those forecasters you reckon are better than BOM, the Met Office, etc ?
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  46. Jim Landy 'I agree there is a clear lack of understanding in the public domain of the difference between weather forecasting and climate predictions. Governments are actually to blame for this, but so is the science community because of statements that are made.' There is a fundamental problem here Jim Climate Science, in fact most science, isn't geared around reporting to the public. Science either reports to other science - the in-house process of peer review, scientific papers, conferences etc by which the experts develop their understanding. Or it reports to government, leaders, funders etc. the IPCC after all is the INTERGOVERNMENTAL panel ... Science isn't geared around reporting to the public. That is left to the media - God Help Us! When you report to fellow scientists, they understand the basics of it all, you don't have to spell it all out and explain it. When you report to government, 'policymakers' etc, the presumption is that they will accept your word and simply ask - 'what should we do' - that why they funded it. But if you have to report to the public, well: They don't know the internal details because they aren't pro's in this game. They don't just accept what you say because your ideas attack their sense of meaning and security in life. And you don't speak their language. So what you have to say may be absolutely valid, but it will be rejected by 'the public' because you are coming out of left field. How much of the 'debate about AGW' is no more than a communications failure? Not all certainly, but what proportion?
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  47. Re John@43. "Predicting ultimate outcomes is all about producing forecasts, and forecasts are, just like your washing machine, a manufactured product." Oh good grief, you still haven't got the issue. But instead blubber on with a marketing campaign! It is clear that you don't actually understand the issue I was describing. You are talking about a weather forecast, and that is the equivalent of an engineer taking a design and working out it's reliability. It has no relation at all to the physical design of the actual washing machine. As I pointed out twice now! When it comes to a manufactured product, the design can be changed and that will result in a new reliability calculation (a forecast of probability of failures). That in no way applies to weather, which is a product that is not 'designed'. That restricts the ultimate accuracy of a weather forecast. And the issue here isn't about political ideology or economic models for funding the best weather forecasts. The issue is the public perception of any weather forecast against the ability to predict climate. Weather forecasting has improved hugely since the 1950s, but some members of the public will always whine about how inaccurate they are. Hence the title of the article by dansat.
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  48. Climatology is a sub-discipline of and a theoretical branch of meteorology. Careful climate scientists always say they don't make predictions or projections and their climate models produce only senarios since phenomena such as clouds, aerosols and in particular black carbon are difficult to model and their effects on climate are not well undersood. Unfortuntely the popular press, politicians and many scientists, lay people and in paricular the wiseguys of the enviromental families, who are not meterologists or climatologists, make no such distinction. After watching weather reports on the TV over 50 years, I have concluded that the earth's climate has not changed much at all. That is to say the pattern of weather in the various regions of earth are still about the same. Weather can be quite variable from year to year and there can be extreme weather events, the most important of which prolonged drought. However, in the long term weather enventally returns to its normal pattern. There are regions such as Death Valley and other deserts where climate has not changed much for centuries. I doubt the climate scientist can model the pattern of weather for the various regions of the earth for period of about 30 years, for example, from 2070 to 2100.
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    Moderator Response: [Daniel Bailey] Been there, done that. Here's 2050 looking at ya:
  49. #48: "a theoretical branch of meteorology" Or perhaps climatology is actually defined as "the study of climate, scientifically defined as weather conditions averaged over a period of time, and is a branch of the atmospheric sciences." "their climate models produce only senarios" Please refer to the rebuttal to Models are unreliable if you want to learn about climate modeling. "After watching weather reports on the TV over 50 years, I have concluded" TV is perhaps not the best place to look for education. I've watched various doctor shows on TV for years, but I wouldn't claim to be ready to do open heart surgery. "the pattern of weather in the various regions of earth are still about the same." OK, now its time to shut the TV off and start looking around the wider world, because there's bad stuff happening out there. See It's freaking cold and Extreme weather for starters. "in the long term weather enventally returns to its normal pattern." That's one you'd have to substantiate, preferably on the extreme weather thread cited above.
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  50. Going to provide us with statements from actual climatologists in which they state that they are a sub-branch of meteorology? Climatology talks about scenarios rather than predictions because you cannot predict how societal factors will affect forcings (ie aerosols, GHG). They then DO predict (any no. of papers) what you will get for climate for a given scenario, SUBJECT to the uncertainties of various sorts, just like every branch of science does. "After watching weather reports on the TV over 50 years, I have concluded that the earth's climate has not changed much at all" So your memories of TV reports are more reliable than all those carefully measured indices done on a global basis? You expect this statement to be taken seriously? "However, in the long term weather enventally returns to its normal pattern." "Normal" is climate. Are you trying to suggest that climate cannot change? How about providing some backing for these assertions?
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