Updated, 2018-12-24, 01:11 ET
“Climate Disruption: What Math and Science Have to Say” is the title and incredibly compelling subject of a talk to be given in San Francisco on 4th March 2013 at the Palace of Fine Arts, 7:30 p.m., local time, by Dr Emily Shuckburgh.
People often invoke Lorenz butterflies and chaos in belittling climate models, but this simply shows their ignorance. They argue that if weather models cannot predict well, how can climate models possibly do so? They miss the point utterly or, rather, understand the point and are nefariously misleading their audience.
For, if the climate system, taken as a whole, is indeed a nonlinear, highly-coupled system in the full Lorenzian sense, or the sense of Mandelbrot, for that matter, then things are far more dangerous than their either seem, or the IPCC has reported, or current climate research can possibly tell. For, if that be true, it opens the possibility of climate bifurcations, which means our collective velocity of change in the climate system could suffice to nudge it into a never-before-visited state. We have no predictability or assessment of what such a state might be. It almost doesn’t matter what we learn. Welcome to the true world of chaos. Note, these are far broader in scope than the so-called “Stommel bifurcation points“.
In fact, the only way of avoiding any downside of such a transition is to stop emitting greenhouses right now, zero, stop. To the degree that is not possible, or too expensive, or too inconvenient, we are inviting an acid trip of huge proportions. I don’t know about you, but I would prefer not to indulge.
Such possibilities are not, or, at least, were not well known, even in the scientific community a few years ago. I once asked about this at a symposium dedicated to exploring the effects of climate change, and they did not know what to say, referring me to the “climate modellers”.
Accordingly, it is with great appreciation that I received an announcement of the Simons Public Lecture, a part of the Mathematics of Planet Earth 2013 series, one provocatively and intriguingly titled Climate Disruption: What Math and Science Have to Say, by Dr Emily Shuckburgh.
Postscript: Edit 27th January 2013. I recently discovered a nice series of blog posts which describe this phenomenon in the context of climate disruption. These are by Dr John Carlos Baez in his Azimuth blog. See the installments below. There are four of them pertaining to this subject:
Very well done, IMO!
Postscript: Edit 28th January 2013. Professor Baez also has a nice introduction to the entire climate change issue beginning with this overview. It also features an extended interview with Professor Nathan Urban of Princeton University, which contains some of the best explanations of residence time and related issues I have read.