Models Methods Software

Dan Hughes

Black Boxes

Not my kind of Engineering.

First some scientists devise a system of continuous equations that are some kind of approximate description of the transient response of the Climate of Earth. For the most part these equations are buried away in an opaque Black Box.

Then these same scientists devise some numerical methods to solve the equation systems they devised above. For the most part these methods are wrapped around the Black Box above and then together put into another Black Box.

Next the scientists produce computer codes that ‘solve’ the numerical methods devised in the previous step. And in a similar fashion, the previous Black Boxes get stuffed into yet another Black Box. It’s getting really hard to know exactly what’s in these boxes. We do know, however, that the ‘solution’ methods have yet to provide numbers that are independent of the discrete approximations to the continuous equations.

Then we gather up a bunch of these Black Boxes having essentially unknown contents and pair therm with a bunch of application methods and users. And by the way the application methods and users are as equally opaque as the Black Boxes that they put to furiously calculating.

The above system comes up with a bunch of calculated numbers by various unknown combinations of the Black Boxes, application methods, and users. It is not reported how or why the particular bunch of numbers is chosen to be representative of the transient response of the Climate of Earth. Additionally we aren’t completely sure if the numbers represent predictions, or projections, or what-ifs, or estimates of the future response of Earth. But hey, we got a bunch of numbers so let’s do something with them.

We observe that both the bunch of calculated numbers and the ‘data’ have wiggles imposed onto a general trend. Based on no demonstrated information at all, we assume that the wiggles in the calculated numbers arise solely from the models of physical phenomena and processes contained in the Black Boxes. And we assume that the calculated wiggles are realistic representations of the actual Climate of Earth.

Plus, while we are looking at temporal and spatial scales that are Climate we call the calculated wiggles weather noise or turbulence. Forgetting that what we’re looking at is already one humongous average; it’s the scale of the planet for an entire year, for gosh sakes. Even as the know that the Black Boxes do not attempt to resolve weather. And even more we know that the Black Boxes have yet to accurately/correctly resolve any physical phenomena and processes. And finally even more, we know that the more important physical phenomena and processes relative to Climate are not described from first principles.

It is well known for close to a hundred years that any of the first four steps listed above in the procedures are all equally capable of producing wiggles in calculated numbers that are solely due to problems in those steps. These wiggles have nothing whatsoever to do with any physical phenomena and processes. No investigations are conducted to determine the actual source(s) of the wiggles in the calculated numbers.

Right off the bat we can plainly see that the Black Box calculated numbers don’t look anything like the data. Let me repeat that. We can plainly see that the Black Box calculated numbers don’t look anything like the data. The Black Boxes cannot yet reproduce the transient response of even planet-wide average quantities.

Now we are having discussions about how the bunch of calculated numbers “compares” with the “measured” response of Earth. It turns out that we aren’t sure how to make the comparisons. And some methods allow for the possibility that the more that the bunch of calculated numbers deviates from ‘data’ the more consistent the bunch of numbers becomes.

Plus we also know that the measured data have in fact been processed through a system similar to that described above. The reported data are in fact results of processing the actual measurements by other opaque Black Box models, solution methods, application methods, and users.

In the process of our discussions we encounter phrases like apples-to-apples.

At this point I wouldn’t stick my hand into the bunch of calculated numbers thinking I would grab an apple.

This is not my Engineering. And I would like to think that it’s not anyone’s Science.

I contend that the very critical and absolutely necessary first step in any comparison exercise is to determine precisely what’s in each and every Black Box before we can even begin to discuss the apples-to-apples issue.


October 24, 2008 - Posted by | Verification | , , ,

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