I’ve been building a climate model for the past year or so. It’s my current big project. Before that my big project was an orbital simulation model. I’m always building simulation models of one thing or other, to try to understand how they work.
In fact it’s not really a climate simulation model that I’m constructing. It’s actually a model of heat flow from the centre of the Earth to its surface. The model has a fairly simple atmosphere on top of it, and also a Sun that shines on it. But I’m not really very interested in the Sun or the atmosphere: they’re just bit part players. The focus of my interest is on the layers of rock at the surface of the Earth. I’m looking underground.
I’m building this model because I had the idea a year back that when snow and ice builds up to great depths on the surface of the Earth, it will act as a layer of insulation, and cause the surface rocks beneath it to warm up. I wondered if the warming of these surface rocks would be enough to melt the overlying snow and ice. There was only one way to find out: build a model. And I knew how to build one, because building such models was what I used to do in university 40 years ago. Back then I was constructing heat flow simulation models of buildings. They weren’t climate models, but they were very similar.
Yesterday I was using my model to simulate snowfall at latitude 60º N. I was dropping fine snow (with the same thermal characteristics as expanded polystyrene) onto the surface of the Earth during an 6,500 year interglacial. It kept on melting, but as it melted it cooled the surface rocks until the point came when the snow stopped melting and started getting deeper, until it got to be 200 m deep. At this point, as I expected, the surface rock temperatures started to climb. And they kept on rising for the next 84,000 years until the snow melted, and the next interglacial began, and it started snowing again.
So using my model I can produce a series of repeated glaciations and deglaciations, very much like those that have been happening on the Earth for the past few million years.
It has to be taken with a very large pinch of salt, though. There are numerous assumptions that underpin this model, one of which is that the 200 m of snow all changes phase from snow to water at exactly the same time. Is that how snow actually behaves? Wouldn’t the melting be accompanied by flooding if that happened? Isn’t it more likely that the snow would gradually melt? Well, yes, it probably is more likely. And perhaps in the next round of improvements to my model, I’ll try to get that working a bit better.
But the point that I really want to make is that, in thinking about ice ages, I may not have a very good model, but I at least have a model. And it’s a model that can be improved. It’s a model in which the assumptions can be changed. It’s a model I can play around with.
And I was wondering this morning why there aren’t lots of these sorts of simple climate simulation models of the Earth so that people can see what happens if the Sun dims, or the atmosphere fills with carbon dioxide, or volcanoes erupt, or whatever.
Nobody seems to have any models. Nobody builds any models And if you don’t have a model, how are you going to have any idea at all what might happen?
I think that some of the climate scientists have models. But as far as I know those models are not available for public scrutiny. They probably also need supercomputers to run them. But why aren’t there simple little ones that people can run on their laptops or mobile phones? They wouldn’t be very accurate. but they’d be better than nothing.
It seems to me that at the moment we have a huge screaming public debate going on between, on the one hand, a bunch of climate alarmists, and on the other hand a bunch of climate sceptics/deniers. And neither the alarmists nor the sceptics have got any models. So it’s just a shouting match.
Does Greta Thunberg have her own climate simulation model? Does Al Gore? Does James Delingpole? Or Marc Morano?
‘The beginning of great change’: Greta Thunberg hails school climate strikes
The 16-year-old’s lone protest last summer has morphed into a powerful global movement challenging politicians to act
“I think enough people have realised just how absurd the situation is. We are in the middle of the biggest crisis in human history and basically nothing is being done to prevent it. I think what we are seeing is the beginning of great changes and that is very hopeful,” she wrote.
The answer to my question is: Almost certainly, No. None of them have their own models. None of them have ever sat tinkering with air temperatures or sea levels or solar flux, watching what happens as they change. They’re all people who either believe the Experts or who don’t believe the Experts.
Greta Thunberg and Al Gore believe the experts. And James Delingpole and Marc Morano don’t believe them. Neither does Donald Trump.
And neither do I. But the reason I don’t believe them is because the climate alarmists have not made their models available for scrutiny. They haven’t explained how they reached their conclusions. They’re asking us to simply take their word for it that carbon dioxide is warming the atmosphere, and will eventually melt all the ice in Greenland and Antarctica, and sink every seaport in the world beneath 60 metres of water, and to prevent that from happening we have to stop any more CO2 being released into the atmosphere. Theirs is a religion. They are asking for religious belief. And they’re getting it from the likes of Greta Thunberg. She’s joined in the shouting match. And all she’s doing is shouting.
I’m just going to carry on constructing my simulation model. I’m hoping that I can use it to study what CO2 in the atmosphere does. And dust deposition on glaciers. And Milankovitch cycles. It’s always only going to be a very simple model. But I don’t see any way out of the shouting match between Emmanuel Macron and the Gilets Jaunes protesters, or between the US Left and Right, if nobody has any model of the Earth and its climate.