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hatrack Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-15-04 12:06 PM
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Michael Crichton's State Of Confusion
EDIT

The issues Crichton raises are familiar to those of us in the field, and come up often in discussions. Some are real and well appreciated while some are red herrings and are used to confuse rather than enlighten.

The first set of comments relate to the attribution of the recent warming trend to increasing CO2. One character suggests that if CO2 didnt cause the global cooling between 1940 and 1970, how can you be sure it is responsible for the recent warming? (paraphrased from p86) . Northern Hemisphere mean temperatures do appear to have cooled over that period, and that contrasts with a continuing increase in CO2, which if all else had been equal, should have led to warming. But were all things equal? Actually no. In the real world, there is both internal variability and other factors that affect climate (i.e. other than CO2). Some of those other forcings (sulphate and nitrate aerosols, land use changes, solar irradiance, volcanic aerosols, for instance) can cause cooling. Matching up the real world with what we might expect to have happened depends on including ALL of the forcings (as best as we can). Even then any discrepancy might be due to internal variability (related principally to the ocean on multi-decadal time scales). Our current best guess is that the global mean changes in temperature (including the 1940-1970 cooling) are actually quite closely related to the forcings. Regional patterns of change appear to be linked more closely to internal variability (particularly the 1930s warming in the North Atlantic). However, in no case has anyone managed to show that the recent warming can be matched without the increases in CO2 (and other GHGs like CH4).

Secondly, through the copious use of station weather data, a number of single station records with long term cooling trends are shown. In particular, the characters visit Punta Arenas (at the tip of South America), where (very pleasingly to my host institution) they have the GISTEMP station record posted on the wall which shows a long-term cooling trend (although slight warming since the 1970s). Theres your global warming one of the good guys declares. I have to disagree. Global warming is defined by the global mean surface temperature. It does not imply that the whole globe is warming uniformly (which of course it isnt). (But that doesnt stop one character later on (p381) declaring that ..its effect is presumably the same everywhere in the world. Thats why its called global warming"). Had the characters visited the nearby station of Santa Barbara Aeropuerto, the poster on the wall would have shown a positive trend. Would that have been proof of global warming? No. Only by amalgamating all of the records we have (after correcting for known problems, such as discussed below) can we have an idea what the regional, hemispheric or global means are doing. That is what is meant by global warming.

EDIT

Another issue that often comes up in discussion about the surface temperature record is the impact of the Urban Heat Island Effect (UHIE), and here it appears on p370. It is undisputed that the centres of cities such as New York are significantly warmer than the surrounding countryside. This issue has been extensively studied and is corrected for in all analyses of the global temperature trends. To see whether there might still be a residual effect in the corrected data, a recent paper (Parker, Nature, 2004) looked at the differences in the trends if you looked separately at windy and not-so-windy conditions. Wind is known to diminish the impact of urban heating, and so the trends on windy days should be less than trends on still days if this was important. The trends actually end up almost exactly the same. Other validating data for the corrected surface temperature record comes from the oceans, which have also been warming in recent decades. Even Richard Lindzen , normally an arch-skeptic on these issues, stated that ocean temperature increases present some support for the surface temperature record Lindzen (2002). Another demonstration that the corrections are sufficient is that over the continental US, where many cities have a clear urban heating signal, the mean of the corrected data is actually rather flat (p88) - i.e. none of the strong urban biases in the US has made it into the regional or indeed global mean.

EDIT

Finally, in an appendix, Crichton uses a rather curious train of logic to compare global warming to the 19th Century eugenics movement. He argues, that since eugenics was studied in prestigious universities and supported by charitable foundations, and now, so is global warming, they must somehow be related. Presumably, the author doesnt actually believe that foundation-supported academic research ipso facto is evil and mis-guided, but that is an impression that is left. In summary, I am a little disappointed, not least because while researching this book, Crichton actually visited our lab and discussed some of these issues with me and a few of my colleagues. I guess we didnt do a very good job. Judging from his reading list, the rather dry prose of the IPCC reports did not match up to the some of the racier contrarian texts. Had RealClimate been up and running a few years back, maybe it wouldve all worked out differently"

EDIT

http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=74

Excellent article.
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wtmusic Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-15-04 12:10 PM
Response to Original message
1. The author of 'Prey'
tends to find fictionalizing non-fiction irresistable.
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hatrack Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-15-04 12:13 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. To say nothing of the classic "Congo"
Gosh, once I put it down, it just COULDN'T pick it up! :-)
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wtmusic Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-15-04 12:15 PM
Response to Reply #2
3. LOFL
thanks for the AM laff :D
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ET Awful Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-15-04 12:34 PM
Response to Reply #1
4. He's written a couple that were okay :)
For instance, "Airframe" was pretty decent (and actually addressed issues like outsourcing, etc.), "Sphere" was a fun read, even "Timeline" was a decent read (crappy movie from what I hear though).

But I'll admit that quite a bit of his stuff is pure shite :)
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enki23 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-15-04 01:50 PM
Response to Original message
5. i repeat my previous assessment:
michael crichton is a fucking mouthbreathing imbecile.

oh, and a hack.
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Viking12 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-15-04 02:34 PM
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6. Michael Crichton's State Of Confusion II: The Return of Science
"Among other odd comments in the piece, is this one:

No longer are models judged by how well they reproduce data from the real world-increasingly, models provide the data. As if they were themselves a reality

Crichton should know that this assertion is false. He cites in the bibliography at the end of his book, the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). But he appears unaware, for example, of the 54 page chapter (chapter 8) in that report on Model Evaluation, which describes in detail how observed data are used to evaluate the performance of climate models. He also appears unaware of the 44 page chapter (chapter 12) on Detection of Climate Change and Attribution of Causes which describes in detail how model-predicted changes are explicitly compared to the actual climate observations in determining the extent to which human influence on climate can be established. Finally, he appears unaware of the 56 page chapter (chapter 10) on Regional Climate Information - Evaluation and Projections evaluating the success of model-based regional climate predictions as measured against actual instrumental data.

Crichton then goes on to make the classic error of confusing weather and climate":

Nobody believes a weather prediction twelve hours ahead. Now we're asked to believe a prediction that goes out 100 years into the future?

As we in this line of research are fond of pointing out to students in our introductory classes, Climate is what you expect; Weather is what you get". Crichton would have been well served if he had read this tutorial on the distinction between the two, or perhaps this one and especially, this one.

http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=76
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hatrack Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-15-04 02:40 PM
Response to Reply #6
7. Hey, thanks Viking 12!
Saw you covering this over in GDP. :hi:
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Viking12 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-15-04 02:46 PM
Response to Reply #7
8. I'm stalking you!
Just doing my small part. We need to get the word out on Crichton's distortions. The more people that see the RealClimate links the better they'll be able to counter the anti-environmental BS.
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reprehensor Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Dec-25-04 01:26 PM
Response to Original message
9. The science hack hath spake!
There is no Global Warming! It's all in your head!

Buy my book!

{Outro music as Crichton heads for the dustbin of mediocre pandering.}
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rustydad Donating Member (753 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Dec-25-04 03:11 PM
Response to Original message
10. One wonders
Edited on Sat Dec-25-04 03:11 PM by rustydad
One must wonder if the fossil fuel industries have given Crichton a financial "bonus" to write this crap. One point he misses is that the oceans are absorbing about 90% of the heat being trapped by greenhouse gases and the follow on effects like increased water vapor, less reflective ice, etc. The oceans are now conveying that increased heat to the poles where it is being absorbed by the ice sheets which are melting like a ice cube in the Sahara.

The resultant sea level rise as land based glaciers spill down into the ocean will be IMO the most pressing issue caused by GW. The world including USA has sited most of the large metropolitan cities at or near sea level. Good luck if you live there Michael
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