[Marxism] Freeman Dyson on scientific heretics and climate change

Les Schaffer schaffer at optonline.net
Sun Aug 12 22:25:30 MDT 2007

Bob Hopson wrote:
> This news item from 1999 http://www.npaci.edu/online/v3.17/dyson.html shows that he's been making these criticism for at least the last eight years.  

his comments at this link are more cogent, but still, for the field 
itself, pretty much boilerplate. i don't know why you are getting 
yourself all in a lather because he likes the mantle of a heretic.

some of his points, preceded with numerals, with my comments following:

1. "The public has been led to believe that problem of carbon dioxide in 
the atmosphere has a single cause and a single consequence, that, put 
simply, fossil fuel burning leads directly to global warming," [snip] 
"But in fact," he continued, "there are multiple causes and multiple 

no one argues with this, and if you think Dyson is correct about this, 
then quit your day job and start reading the literature.

2. It is my belief that too much Federal money has been spent on 
modeling and not enough on measurement of the causes of climate change."

did YOU see Dyson make a federal case out of the Bush administration 
cutting funding for measurements and satellites??? i sure did not. and 
Dyson the nuke builder and IAS impresario would be in a good position to 
make the case.

3. Their use, both Manabe and Dyson maintain, is primarily for 
understanding the myriad factors that affect climatic change.

i'm ok with this. you joked about 90% accuracy in the models. 90%, 66%, 
23.23222%, 10%. the point is, its very hard to believe we'll do 0% the 
way things are. you seem to like Dyson's little technical fixes for this 
problem. if only it could be so easy.

4. Dyson pointed out the many elements that are not treated 
realistically or from first principles in most climate models but rather 
"parameterized," that is, incorporated by reference to their measured 

this is a little two-faced, since he earlier argues for more 
measurements with which to keep the models honest. but to make a general 
point, nothing Dyson says here is heretical, and thus automatically 
worthy of Hopson-style worship. everyone knows where things are 
parametereized, and if Hopson would read a little of the literature, 
he'd see how the modelers are starting to pull this stuff in. Bob, you 
haven't responded to the last post i made, showing how modelers are 
using measured values to prime their models, thereby getting improved 
short term accuracy.

5. In particular, most climate models are unable to treat cloud 
formation and precipitation realistically.

this has started to change. i thought i posted something a while ago on 
the effects of water in the atmosphere. if not i'll dig around for some 
of the new stuff.

6. A further defect in most models is their coarse resolution, which 
prevents proper treatment of subgrid-scale processes like cloud 
formation, which is spotty and patchy in ways not resolved by the models.

this has been known about since forever in the fluids modeling world. i 
attended seminars in the 80s on this stuff. everyone knows "scales" is  
a crucial point.

7. In addition, a problem only recently being remedied is the 
interrelationship of atmosphere and ocean in the determination of climate.

the journals are full of this stuff now.

8. All of these defects combine to make the models unable to register 
the sources and sinks of carbon dioxide accurately enough, Dyson said.

like you said, this was 1999.

9. The question is what becomes of all this carbon dioxide. Dyson 
pointed out that too little is known about the sinks, and in particular 
the effects of vegetation.

someone posted dysons thing about vegetation saving our asses. so i 
posted something on the amazon rain forest, and how some see its role in 
CO2 absorption diminishing with increased temperature. my point was not 
to say Dyson was wrong to look at this, but that he is a little 
short-sighted to think there is an easy, business-as-usual  fix to the 

10. Another greenhouse gas about whose cycle little is known is methane, 
and Dyson explained how destabilization of methane ices (clathrates) in 
coastal sediments might lead to an extraordinary input to the 
atmosphere, unforeseen in models.

Mark Jones posted on this stuff ages ago. and he was no climate modeler. 
he must have learned it from someone. and i dont remember him mentioning 

11. While satellite observations have contributed much hard data for 
analysis, Dyson said, the need for local observations, taken on the 
ground and in the atmosphere beneath satellite heights, is critical in 
putting the climate puzzle together.

see the Science article i posted yesterday. also, write letters to Dyson 
asking him to push for increased funding for these local observations.  
i'm being facetious here, obviously.

12. A relatively new technique, eddy covariance flux measurements of the 
tons of carbon transported around the lower atmosphere, day and night, 
is resulting in much better global estimates of the carbon cycle. "It 
may ultimately be possible," Dyson said, "to enable land management to 
be a key to the regulation of the amount of carbon dioxide going into 
the atmosphere versus that going into tree growth. Whether we manage the 
land wisely or mismanage it foolishly, we will at least be able to 
calculate the effects."

does this kind of stuff need comment here? i'd be all for "eddy 
covariance flux measurements". can anyone see this scheme being put into 
practice under the current system?

see also:
google has another 850 links to people using this technique. Bob, does 
it still sound like Dyson holds the keys to the kingdom?

Eddy Correlation Systems
The Eddy Covariance method uses high frequency wind and scalar 
atmospheric data series, to yield values of fluxes of these properties, 
representing quite large areas (so-called footprint) depending on the 
height of the measurements above the surface. For instance, it is used 
within CcSP to measure the net ecosystem flux of carbon from vegetated 
areas, over long periods. In addition fluxes of N2O and CH4 are measured 
(innovation). Eddy Covariance allows the carbon dioxide flux from an 
ecosystem to the atmosphere to be estimated. A sonic anemometer 
(measuring wind speed) and infrared beam (measuring carbon dioxide 
concentrations) are usually grouped on a tower (but also e.g. on an 
aircraft), above vegetation. In a nutshell, the 3D wind and another 
variable (usually CO2 concentration, etc) are decomposed into mean and 
fluctuating components. The covariance is calculated between the 
fluctuating component of the vertical wind and the fluctuating component 
of CO2 concentration (or any other property of the air). The vertical 
flux of CO2 is then proportional to the covariance of the two signals.


13. Another kind of global, terrestrial observation receiving more 
attention lately is the acoustic measurement of ocean temperatures being 
pioneered by Walter Munk and colleagues at the Scripps Institution of 

interesting he raises Munk. many years ago i posted about him. maybe its 
in the archives. he was responsible for coming up with surf prediction 
models for an Allied landing in NOrth Africa. they were thrown together, 
had all kinds of hypotheses and tinkering and what not in them. but FOR 
THE TIME, AT THE TIME, it was felt the best one could do. good ole 
google, here it is: 
http://archives.econ.utah.edu/archives/marxism/2001/msg03645.htm  ... 
see the  part on or around here: ">>> from Chapter 6: The Sverdrup-Munk 

14. The good news, Dyson concluded, is that serious effort and funding 
are at last being put into the kinds of global observations that will be 
able to validate or revise understandings achievable with current models.

so what are we arguing about??????????

> So I think that shows you're wrong that he's jumping on the anti-bandwagon.

wasn't my main point, tho i see you took it that way. my earlier 
comments, and i thought i made this clear, related to some article of 
his forwarded the other day.

my main point above is to refute this notion of yours that Dyson has 
been on to something "heretical" that the rest of the field has ignored 
at our peril. Bob: the guy is not what you think he is. whatever. if we 
you want debate the state of these 14 items above, it might be  a useful 
contribution to the lists appreciation of the state of the technical 
efforts in modeling AND measurement.

i'm going to get busy for a while starting tmw, but "i'll be beck"


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