Last week, Syukuro Manabe and Klaus Hasselmann shared the Noble Prize in Physics for their work that led to the first computer models of the Earth’s climate.
Unlike many Nobel-worthy achievements based on strong data or newly discovered processes, the result that this year’s Noble Prize was awarded was simply a conjecture; one that still has no answer, more than 60 years later.
According to the BBC,
“It is incredibly difficult to predict the long-term behavior of complex physical systems such as climate. Computer models that anticipate how it will respond to rising greenhouse gas emissions have been crucial in understanding global warming as a global emergency. ”
The Associated Press reported on Manabe’s work and praised him, saying: “… other climate scientists called his 1967 article with the late Richard Wetherald” the most influential climate document in history. “
And Manabe’s fellow Princeton Tom Delworth called Manabe “the Michael Jordan of climate.”
“Manabe…. he took advantage of the computing power of the first computers and applied it to the climate. In the late 1960s, his climate circulation model was on a computer that occupied an entire room and had only half a megabyte of memory. After hundreds of hours of testing, the model showed that carbon dioxide had a clear impact: when the level of carbon dioxide doubled, the overall temperature rose by more than 2 ° C. “
Aside from brilliant reviews, gross and early calculations, and wild claims of a separate “planetary emergency,” the conclusion is that climate models back then and now still don’t have a definite answer as to the warming that will occur. with the addition of greenhouse. gases in our atmosphere.
The reason? Scientists have not yet been able to nail down the most important variable known as “climate sensitivity,” which determines the amount of warming that will occur with the doubling of carbon dioxide into the Earth’s atmosphere.
As referred to in Climate at a glance: climate sensitivity, for decades, scientists have debated the effect of climate sensitivity, due to the uncertain nature of climate feedback in various models.
The models are only as good as their input. GIGO, or garbage, garbage is a phrase commonly used in the modeling and data analysis community.
Declaring future predictions of global warming as “settled science” requires a fairly accurate calculation of future temperatures.
However, since climate sensitivity was first identified more than 40 years ago, scientists and climate models have produced a very wide range of future temperature patterns. Estimates from peer-reviewed studies range from a warming of 0.8 ° C to a warming of almost 6.0 ° C in 2100.
Such a wide range of uncertainty means that the temperature projections of the climate model remain questionable, at best.
Whether your climate model is a raw version running on an old computer, or a complex model on a new supercomputer that can do billions of calculations per second, if you don’t have the real value of climate sensitivity to use in equations, the end result will always be a conjecture. This is why the range of the figure is so wide.
If climate scientists do not understand the Earth’s atmosphere well enough to achieve a true value of climate sensitivity to increase carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases and do not understand and know how to model the other factors driving change climate, like clouds, How can we rely on projections of the climate model of future warming that are based on such an uncertain value?
And that’s what we have – an uncertain assumption that he received a Nobel Prize.
Physicist Lubos Motl did not mince words when he wrote about the award on his website:
“But even if the two men deserved this award, which they do not, it is absolutely unforgivable how the award was justified. It was justified with buzzwords (I mean especially the superstitious and absurd phrase “global warming”) that are almost identical to those of the justification of the Nobel Peace Prize for pure scammers like Al Gore. That way, the Nobel laureate has committed suicide and I don’t want to hear about it again. The political motivation for this award is 100% obvious.
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