16 February 2010

Consistent with Being in a Deep Fog

National Geographic reports yesterday:
Declining fog cover on California's coast could leave the state's famous redwoods high and dry, a new study says.

Among the tallest and longest-lived trees on Earth, redwoods depend on summertime's moisture-rich fog to replenish their water reserves.

But climate change may be reducing this crucial fog cover. Though still poorly understood, climate change may be contributing to a decline in a high-pressure climatic system that usually "pinches itself" against the coast, creating fog, said study co-author James Johnstone, an environmental scientist at the University of California, Berkeley.
Last summer the San Francisco Chronicle carried a story about research on fog and climate with a different conclusion:
The Bay Area just had its foggiest May in 50 years. And thanks to global warming, it's about to get even foggier.

That's the conclusion of several state researchers, whose soon-to-be-published study predicts that even with average temperatures on the rise, the mercury won't be soaring everywhere.

"There'll be winners and losers," says Robert Bornstein, a meteorology professor at San Jose State University. "Global warming is warming the interior part of California, but it leads to a reverse reaction of more fog along the coast."

The study, which will appear in the journal Climate, is the latest to argue that colder summers are indeed in store for parts of the Bay Area.

More fog is consistent with predictions of climate change. Less fog is consistent with predictions of climate change. I wonder if the same amount of fog is also "consistent with" such predictions? I bet so.

23 comments:

Fred said...

So climate, which by its intrinsic nature requires change, is described for post global warming correctness reasons as "Climate Change".

While if we described water, which by its intrinsic nature requires wetness, as "Water Wet", people would think you couldn't speak English.

Go figure.

Mike Smith said...

Global Warming: Is there anything it can't do?

John M said...

Just two more for this list, I guess.

http://www.numberwatch.co.uk/warmlist.htm

Tom said...

As someone who is from the Bay Area, I can say that 13 years ago the reduction in fog was noticeable, but I put it down to a change in the mix of industries in SF--most of the manufacturing had moved out, replaced by tourism. After moving back a year ago, the fog does seem more frequent and thicker. I must also say that 13 years ago the Redwoods in Muir Woods look vibrant, healthy and in better shape than I was. They still do.

Craig said...

More fog? Less Fog? Does someone have a squeegee I can borrow to wipe the climate pettifogging off my screen?

Mark B. said...

This is why they universally shifted from global warming to climate change, no?

These trees are hundreds of years old, and have been through many cycles of climate change. Somehow, they've survived.

bernie said...

Roger:
Excellent catches. Francis Bacon and Richard Feynman will be turning over in their graves!

David said...

The most important question for these apparently brilliant minds is: how do they definitively differentiate (using empirical evidence from observation) whether the changes are natural, or human influenced?

Without such an answer it's all just pointing out the incredibly obvious, ie that climate change causes (gasp, shock, horror!) changes in various aspects of the environment.

nigguraths said...

It is as if these guys stumbled upon the phrase "consistent with" for the first time. :)

TSL said...

I'd be willing to bet that local land use changes have more effect on fog than a change of a couple of degrees in global average temperature.

Harrywr2 said...

The Fog of Eco-battles.

Craig said...

Even the conflicting opinions expressed here are "consistent with" this discussion.

copner said...

Op Ed in the NY Times, 17 Feb 2010 - Thomas L. Friedman -

More or less snow, more or less precipation is evidence for climate change, which he suggests is relabelled "global wierding".

Seeing as any deviation, by any amount, at any location, from perceived normality, is now supposed to be evidence of climate change - I don't see how we can test this theory.

We really have entered the realm of theology rather than science, if the answer to every question is "god did it", strike that I mean, "climate change / global wierding did it".

econyonium said...

The ancient cry in England, "Fog in the Channel: Europe cut off."

The Cunctator said...

Here are links to the actual studies.

http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2010/02/09/0915062107.abstract
http://ams.allenpress.com/perlserv/?request=get-abstract&doi=10.1175%2F2008JCLI2111.1

Roger, do you have any concerns with these papers, or just with the media coverage?

It's an important distinction, of course.

jae said...

Hmmm

"But climate change may be reducing this crucial fog cover. Though still poorly understood, climate change may be contributing to a decline in a high-pressure climatic system that usually "pinches itself" against the coast, creating fog, said study co-author James Johnstone, an environmental scientist at the University of California, Berkeley."

Notice the word "may" is used twice, here. You can replace these words with "may not," based on the evidence provided. Because of that, the "conclusions" mean nothing at all. I find this the most pervasive problem in climate science.

FreewheelinFrank said...

The one report looks at temperature and fog for the last century; the other at temperature for the last 40 years and makes a prediction about future fog.

The one report finds a decrease in the temperature differential between inland and coastal areas since the beginning of the 20th century and a decrease in fog; the other finds an increase in the differential in certain areas since 1970 and predicts an increase in fog.

Could there be some interesting information in the difference and not just a conclusion that the scientists involved are "in a deep fog"?

phlipper said...

Here's what you folks don't seem to understand. In the Bay Area, they have what we physicists all "Quantum Fog." When you are not observing it, it is in an entangled state - both fog and mist and/or neither. Any attempts to describe it result in what we philosophers call "Quantum Truths". In other words, neither story is true nor is either false until read - preferably in the woods, surrounded by Redwood trees, when no one else knows you're reading. These properties follow directly from the Hedge Theorem, as all of us mathematicians are well aware.

markbahner said...

"Notice the word "may" is used twice, here. You can replace these words with "may not," based on the evidence provided. Because of that, the "conclusions" mean nothing at all. I find this the most pervasive problem in climate science."

Yes, I'd go even farther. It's not a "problem in climate science," because it's not science at all. It's not falsifiable, so it's not science.

Luke Lea said...

"Not inconsistent with" is a measure of the weakness of a scientific hypothesis, not of its strength.

In other words, a weak hypothesis rules very little out.

Luke Lea said...

Or again:

The more things that are not inconsistent with a given theory, the less that theory tells us about how the world really works.

I'm trying to come up with a rhetorical epigram to counter the argument of non-inconsistency which the defenders of a weak theory so often employ. Can anybody come up with a better one? We need it.

phlipper said...

Luke Lea said: "...Can anybody come up with a better one? We need it."
You didn't like post 20?
If you are looking for a rational response to absurdity, you could do little better than to ask an alcoholic in the throws of delirium tremens. Some of the better arguments to "non-inconsistency" may surely be found in one of the volumes of Lewis Carroll.
Tea, anyone?

jstults said...

Without knowing how much a theory constrains possible outcomes, you cannot know how impressed to be when observation and theory are consistent.
How persuasive is a good fit? A comment on theory testing

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