7.1.14

NO FINAL SAY.

On matters of methodology, I'm a traditionalist.  Theories and hypotheses are provisional.  A model is good if it's more accurate than a coin-flip, and it stays in the canon until a better explanation comes along.  Better depends on both precision and parsimony.  We reject hypotheses, or fail to reject hypotheses.  "Not inconsistent with," albeit awkward, is more precise than "confirmation of."

Now, if our colleagues can stay on that message.

We start, because we must, with the Modern Language Association conference managers getting their onesies in a twist over a request by The Daily Caller for press credentials.  The web-site's reaction to their denial won't convince anyone that it wasn't justified.
Rosemary Feal, executive director of the MLA, explained the rejection this way: "The MLA provides media credentials to qualified reporters who are employees of or freelancers on assignment to locally or nationally recognized print or broadcast media outlets with a demonstrated history of reporting on academic issues. Based on that policy, we have accredited a range of media outlets with a history of serious reporting on academic issues, including several that have been critical of the MLA. In keeping with that policy we reviewed the archive of Eric Owens, the reporter who requested credentials for the MLA convention from the Daily Caller, but determined that his reporting was not of a caliber that merited free admission to the MLA convention."
The ensuing Inside Higher Ed bull session is instructive, particularly as to what friends of the Association understand legitimate media to be.

Turning to matters of greater importance, however, I must tell you that even settled science is provisional, and it takes a better model to beat a model.  Take the polar vortex.  Please.  (As long as it's over the NFC North part of the world, it's January.  Move that sucker to the east coast, and it becomes news.)  To policy wonks, though, there's a problem.
The more ludicrous example — when the wind chill factor is approaching record lows of minus fifty and a group of so-called climate scientists have been stuck in Antarctic ice for weeks with much of the [mainstream media] trying desperately to hide that they were there to investigate global warming in the first place – is [Vice President Al] Gore’s determination to insist that anthropogenic global warming is settled science, that the the world must stop everything it’s doing and devote its scant economic resources to preventing this looming catastrophe (not to mention filling Mr. Gore’s bank account). Only an imbecile, a corrupt UN diplomat, a New York Times or Guardian reporter, or a scientist on the dole could believe that.
Mr Gore is on record that the North Polar Ice Cap was not going to be here by now. It's here, and whether the melting it has undergone in the past few years remains a phenomenon for further study.
Sudden stratospheric warming events occur when large atmospheric waves, known as Rossby waves, extend beyond the troposphere where most weather occurs, and into the stratosphere. This vertical transport of energy can set a complex process into motion that leads to the breakdown of the high altitude cold low pressure area that typically spins above the North Pole during the winter, which is known as the polar vortex.

The polar vortex plays a major role in determining how much Arctic air spills southward toward the mid-latitudes. When there is a strong polar vortex, cold air tends to stay bottled up in the Arctic. However, when the vortex weakens or is disrupted, like a spinning top that suddenly starts wobbling, it can cause polar air masses to surge south, while the Arctic experiences milder-than-average temperatures.

During the ongoing stratospheric warming event, the polar vortex split in two, allowing polar air to spill out from the Arctic, as if a refrigerator door were suddenly opened.

When the sudden stratospheric warming event began in early January, that signaled to weather forecasters that a cool down was more likely to occur by the end of the month, since it usually takes many days for developments in the stratosphere to affect weather in the troposphere, and vice versa.

“For reasons I don’t think we fully understand, the changes in the circulation that happen in the stratosphere [can] descend down all the way to the Earth’s surface,” said Judah Cohen, director of seasonal forecasting at Atmospheric and Environmental Research (AER) in Massachusetts.

As the polar stratosphere warms, high pressure builds over the Arctic, causing the polar jet stream to weaken. At the same time, the midlatitude jet stream strengthens, while also becoming wavier, with deeper troughs and ridges corresponding to more intense storms and high pressure areas. In fact, sudden stratospheric warming events even make so-called “blocked” weather patterns more likely to occur, which tilts the odds in favor of the development of winter storms in the U.S. and Europe.

Cohen was the lead author of a 2009 study that found that sudden stratospheric warming events are becoming more frequent, a trend that may be related to an increase in fall snow cover across Eurasia. The increase in snow cover has in turn been tied to the rapid loss of Arctic sea ice, since the increase in open water in the fall means that there is more atmospheric moisture available to fall as rain or snow.

Cohen and his colleagues at AER have been using an index of Eurasian snow cover during the month of October in order to make seasonal weather forecasts for the following winter, and he said that by using this technique, they successfully predicted the ongoing stratospheric warming event 30-days in advance.
Snow cover as a leading indicator is relatively straightforward. The dynamics of mixing of air among stratosphere and troposphere are probably more complicated, and possibly chaotic in the sense of Mandelbrot and Gleick.  In that "reasons we don't fully understand" hide numerous grant and dissertation proposals.  There's a reason most academic papers have a "directions for future research" passage in the summary.

None of which stops State Line Ideologues from another round of Didn't: Did.

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