I recently re-tweeted a new and interesting graphic from a study by NOAA’s GFDL in Princeton, NJ. It’s a world famous research institute that was doing computer modeling of future global warming as far back as 20 years ago. They also were leaders in hurricane forecasting with their GFDL computer model.
I then got into a twitter “conversation” with a TV meteorologist from Macon, Ga. as follows:
Glenn: Bad news for Poconos. New study from NOAA's GFDL in Princeton shows big snowfall drop by end of century.
Jeff Cox: Do you really believe this?
Glenn: More likely than not.
Jeff Cox: With exactly what evidence? Warming? This morning a 10F temp difference in "official" and my house. 6 miles. LIBERAL AGENDA
Glenn: No, it's called science. The evidence is overwhelming. Take your head out of the sand.
Jeff Cox: lol funny guy here. It's called conforming. No brain or backbone to have your own opinion. Epitome of this country.
This reminded me of the fact that many TV weather people don’t believe the consensus about global warming/climate change. Nearly a third say it's a HOAX! I realize it’s become very political (it wasn’t so much back in the 90s), but are that many TV weather folks (some are meteorologists and some aren’t) saying this for purely political reasons? Maybe not.
Jeff’s opinion is clearly political (“LIBERAL AGENDA”). It was another line that got me thinking:
“It’s called conforming. No brain or backbone to have your own opinion”.
That’s a fascinating statement. If we tend to believe the experts who publish the most on climate (97% on one side, 3% on the other), we “have no backbone”? Is it cowardly for a scientist to believe in the consensus of scientists WAY more expert on the subject? Would a podiatrist be cowardly for agreeing with the opinion of a brain surgeon, if the subject was the brain? Does it take courage to tell the patient that the brain surgeon doesn’t know what he’s talking about, or he is just diagnosing a tumor so he can make more money with surgery? It sounds illogical.
The term “wishcasting” is well-known in the field of weather forecasting. We all have biases, and many meteorologists have a bias in liking snow. After all, we didn’t become meteorologists because of sunny days. This bias causes some forecasters to predict too much snow or rain too often. They tend to believe the hurricane in the Atlantic has a better chance of hitting than the Hurricane Center does. Their snow total forecasts are higher.
Wishcasting is possible because there are so many computer models these days. The further out in time, the more these models will “disagree”. So the biased forecaster has the chance to believe the model that leads to the biggest storm. This is not trusting a particular model over others. For example, the biased forecaster might believe the European model ahead of some storms, but the American, or Canadian, or Japanese models at other times-whichever suggests more snow, rain, or wind.
How does this apply to global warming/climate change? As in daily forecasting, computer models are involved. Some predict lower temperature rises in the future than others. Some predict less melting of ice in the Arctic. Some predict fewer hurricanes and tornadoes. A meteorologist who WANTS to believe that global warming is a false or not dangerous idea is able to find the models that are closest to his WISH.
If there’s a study (even by a non-climate specialist) that minimizes the threat of global warming, that is the one quoted in any argument, blog, or testimony to Congress. It then makes many in the public confused about the level of consensus of climate scientists, thinking that there is still a lot of debate about even the basics: that more carbon dioxide will lead to a significantly warmer world.
In daily weather forecasting, a heavy wishcaster will be proven wrong time and time again. But in climate forecasting, the results won’t be known for decades, or longer. So, climate wishcasting is likely to continue well into the future.