Meteorologists v Climatologists

Writing elsewhere, I noted that while mainstream Republicans might not have signed onto the crazy (IMHO) rumors that have been making the rounds of the Internets in the last few months about HAARP-induced earthquakes, some of them cherish a parallel mad scientist fantasy of their own. They believe that global warming is a fraud, perpetrated on an unsuspecting public by evil climatologists.

Like the HAARP conspiracists, who believe that if they can prove that earthquakes in Haiti, Sichuan, Kobe, and Chile furthered US imperial interests then they have as good as proven that the US military artificially induced them, these Global Warming denialists conflate consequences with causes. If “a” benefits “b,” they seem to be thinking, then “b” must have had a hand in “a.” The existence of anthropogenic global warming necessitates global solutions, which empower international institutions. By the light of their faulty logic it follows that “a” must be a Trojan horse—a fraud concocted out of whole cloth by the International Elites, who are looking to impose their Global Supergovernment on a world that is in reality cooling. Ipso facto, the scientists whose research supports global warming must have been corrupted by the Elite’s money.

Thus “Climategate”—the hacked emails between scientists at the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia. To put a conspiratorial counter spin on the alleged conspiracy, if they hadn’t been discovered, someone would have had to invent them. As early as 2003, Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, then Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works, had declared that “with all of the hysteria, all of the fear, all of the phony science, could it be that manmade global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people? It sure sounds like it.” Upon the release of the Climategate e mails he swiftly demanded a Congressional investigation of what he called “the greatest scientific scandal of our generation.”

Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is also a confirmed skeptic on the issue of global warming. Her brother is a “certified” meteorologist, she averred, and “he said there is nothing to this global warming phenomenon. As a matter of fact, we are now in a long-term global cooling stage.”

In this other piece I wrote I noted how fascinating it is that at the same time that Bachmann categorically dismisses the consensus view of the world’s climate scientists (click here before you send links to Lawrence Solomon’s The Deniers) she makes a point of emphasizing that her brother is a certified meteorologist. “One of the impressive things about paranoid literature,” Richard Hofstadter wrote in 1963, “Is the contrast between its fantasied conclusions and the almost touching concern with factuality it invariably shows. It produces heroic strivings for evidence to prove that the unbelievable is the only thing that can be believed.” 9/11 Truthers, as I have noted elsewhere, also pay extravagant obeisance to the scientific method, touting the academic qualifications of the handful of physicists and structural engineers who have signed onto their movement and ignoring the 99.9% of their peers who disagree with them.

But then in today’s NY Times, I read this (click here for the full article):

The debate over global warming has created predictable adversaries, pitting environmentalists against industry and coal-state Democrats against coastal liberals.

But it has also created tensions between two groups that might be expected to agree on the issue: climate scientists and meteorologists, especially those who serve as television weather forecasters.

Climatologists, who study weather patterns over time, almost universally endorse the view that the earth is warming and that humans have contributed to climate change. There is less of a consensus among meteorologists, who predict short-term weather patterns……

Such skepticism appears to be widespread among TV forecasters, about half of whom have a degree in meteorology. A study released on Monday by researchers at George Mason University and the University of Texas at Austin found that only about half of the 571 television weathercasters surveyed believed that global warming was occurring and fewer than a third believed that climate change was “caused mostly by human activities.”

Who knew? The Times asked its sources to speculate about the reasons for the divide.

Heidi Cullen, a climatologist who straddled the two worlds when she worked at the Weather Channel, noted that meteorologists used models that were intensely sensitive to small changes in the atmosphere but had little accuracy more than seven days out. Dr. Cullen said meteorologists are often dubious about the work of climate scientists, who use complex models to estimate the effects of climate trends decades in the future….

Resentment may also play a role in the divide. Climatologists are almost always affiliated with universities or research institutions where a doctoral degree is required. Most meteorologists, however, can get jobs as weather forecasters with a college degree.

“There is a little bit of elitist-versus-populist tensions,” Mr. Henson said. “There are meteorologists who feel, ‘Just because I have a bachelor’s degree doesn’t mean I don’t know what’s going on.’ ”

Whatever the reasons, meteorologists are far more likely to question the underlying science of climate change. A study published in the January 2009 newsletter of the American Geophysical Union, the professional association of earth scientists, found that while nearly 90 percent of some 3,000 climatologists who responded agreed that there was evidence of human-driven climate change, 80 percent of all earth scientists and 64 percent of meteorologists agreed with the statement. Only economic geologists who specialized in industrial uses of materials like oil and coal were more skeptical.

How ironic that weathermen turn out to be the biggest mavericks on TV when it comes to resisting conventional wisdom (even if they’re on the wrong side of the facts). And how telling that scientists whose work is focused on the industrial applications for fossil fuels would have such a different perspective than academic climatologists. It makes you wonder how objective science really is.

In the real world, it seems, some scientists are no less subjective than English professors and politicians. But if it’s lucre that provides the motive for bad science, then it’s worth noting that there’s a lot more of it sloshing around the coal and oil industries (and for that matter, local TV news operations) than can be found at most research universities.

6 thoughts on “Meteorologists v Climatologists

  1. So what we have is the people who’s models are the least reliable trusting other people’s models the least.

  2. Honestly, I hate the global warming debate. That said, there was some Newsweek stuff in 1974 that talked about global cooling. Many scientists called for spreading dirt or dark substrate over the poles to melt them and/or create global warming.

    That said, it could demonstrate both how humans could change climate and the fickle nature of climate prediction. I have been, of course, academicly thrashed on both sides.

    I think the rub lies both in human nature and scientists. Also in the idea of what Earth’s climate should be and what we think is ideal for us. Is there any reason why the Earth could not have a Cambriean atmosphere? If we agree with cometary strikes changeing climate and upsetting the atmosphere, would not the Earth be, following laws of entropy, returning to a stable state? Are industrialized intelligent species throwing rocks in a pond? Sure. Personally I think the climate will change despite what we do. Even if we went back to prehistoric utopia. The trick is believing that current civilization “will not change”, i.e. we will burn coal forever until it’s gone. Those same industries, via market forces, ever increasing demand, more efficient(requiring less upkeep) and longer lasting machines to sell to a consumer, will change materials and designs that may unnaturally select technologies that match climate conscious desires anyway.

    For example, whale oil lit homes for centuries. But it was a dangerous and arduous process to extract the rescource. One day, it ended. Horses became too slow and inefficient. After millenia, the whole transportation sector blinked and they were gone. Race cars used to top at 35mph. Demand wanted faster, faster, less maintenance, easier to operate, lights, heaters, bells and whistles. Not that they needed it because a machines perfection is it’s ability to perform as designed. Unnaturally there ancestors were scrapped. The old farts are always complaining, “We didn’t need heated seats, power windows, alarms, GPS, cruise control, ABS, airbags and seatbelts.” What do people want? Star Trek. Radio wasn’t good enough. Records, nope, TV, nope, VCRs, nope, Cable, nope, DVR, nope. Not even the internet was good enough. How long did dial-up last? Humans want instant everything without wires. If one reads the complaint comments on new electric cars you see the demand. Nobody wants to recharge them for hours. They have to go fast or faster than ICE’s. People don’t want to stop. Not even for gas. When we dump the IC engine like a whaling ship, that machine will be amazing…right up to the next model year, lol.

    I think with/without global warming, with/without gluten, human demand will resolve the issue. If one is a big Gaia buff, we are still part of the “organism” our unconscious behavior will drive us in compliment wether or not individuals will sputter.

      1. This is what I love about science and those that think science is a religion. Religions rarely change fundamentals but science…data rendered obsolete with technology…has no qualms about rectifying fundamentals. Thank you for the intelectual slap in the face. It is how I learn.

  3. Demand and the electric car. For all my greenbeanie buddies.

    I see the future e-car to have most of the same specs as the Fiskar Karma because it outperforms or matches an IC car. I have some automotive experience so lets talk about sex. The battery output is peaked at 2ookw. I know, for the hippy with a VW Vanagon and focused on environmental science that is just a number.
    200kW is 268hp. The same as a turbo six-cylinder at max rpm. The fun part is that energy doesn’t follow a gas expansion powercurve. It is instantanious.
    200kw is enough electricity to power 200 homes.

    Those batteries have enough juice to power 200 homes for 11.3 hrs. 200kw at 22.6kwh.

    That is an amazing amount of stored energy. The two electric motors deliver a combined 408hp. 0-60mph in 5.8 seconds and an electronicly governed top speed of 125mph. 959 ft.lbs of torque. The draw is 500amps at 4oo volts.

    So it’s 0-60 is the same as a Subaru a Impreza WRX with a 224hp 2.4L, except that I am sure the Karma maintians that rate all the way to 125mph. No power curve. The other ha-ha is that the Karma has one “gear”. It just goes foreward right off the motor. No transmission per se. An equal test would be to use IC cars in first gear only…then the inefficiency of cars becomes evident.

    The Karma is “handicapped” because the tires would burn off the rims. It could go so fast that the front end lifts off the ground. Because all that energy, being EMR, can be transfered instantly. The heaviest amp fuse in most commercial trucks is 30amps. Scared of electricuting yourself with a hairdryer in a bathtub? How about all the appliances from 200 homes?
    Think of Harry the homeowner tinkering in his garage on his e-car. How easy it could be to blow an arm apart to the elbow and turn cardiac muscles into a clinched knot that won’t relax till long after death. Safer to smoke at the gas pump and watch tv in the bathtub.

    But knowledge is power. So that means for low-brow mechanics to fix the car of the future they must also be electricians. Combine the wages of a mechanic and an electrician. This spells doom to the uneducated shade-tree tune-ups. How much for that repair bill??

    Have no fear though. The IC is on the way out. You can only get so many joules of energy out of a drop of gasoline so even the most hi-tech and efficient engine can only go so far. You can only use gear ratio “cheating” so far. Green will come but many, many things in industry and the way we live will change to.

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