The only thing we can be sure of about the future is that it will be absolutely fantastic. So if what I say now seems to you to be very reasonable, then I have failed completely. Only if what I tell you appears absolutely unbelievable, have we any chance of visualizing the future as it really will happen.

- Arthur C. Clarke (h/t Brin)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Spot the Error #3

Another easy one, via the anti-Gore site Planet Gore. There are several very debatable points in this brief article, but there's a standout mistake. Can you spot it?

What Would an Economy Run by ‘Climate Scientists’ Look Like? [Daniel Foster]
"For an industry that lost $9.4bn last year and was forecast to lose a further $2.8bn in 2010, this crisis is devastating," said Giovanni Bisignani, chief executive of the International Air Transport Association.

Bisignani also blamed the governments for overhaste in closing airspace, and costing the airline industry over $100 million a day, as a result of climate change models that proved to be flawed.


Addendum: Shall I continue this series? Should it go by its original name "Spot the Denialist Bug"?

16 comments:

jg said...

Is the answer the confusion between a short term weather model of the atmosphere and the long term general circulation model (or whatever is the currnt term)?

I like this series. It's important to keep this fun. I don't care what you call it.

thanks,
jg

ishtar said...

An error (perhaps not the error mt was thinking of) is the assertion that the weather forecasts were actually wrong.

-The real Atmoz

Steve Bloom said...

jg, I haven't checked but I suspect the model used to try to predict ash behavior isn't even a weather model, although it must use input from one. Of course your basic point is correct.

This is fun so far, Michael, so by all means keep it up. Is this what you meant when you mentioned a change in focus?

Michael Tobis said...

Not really the change in focus, but possibly a part of it.

It has a couple of nice features: first it's easy for me, basically shooting fish in a barrel; and second it gets people thinking both about how to challenge the nonsense and about matters of real scientific substance.

manuelg said...

"Spot the Loonie"

Michael Tobis said...

Thanks, Moe, but it won't work.

For one thing, I already give away who the loonie is.

For another thing, for some reason (that I wish I understood better) global change topics attract Canadians like barbecue and Shiner Bock attract Texans. To a Canadian, a loonie is a dollar.

Paul said...

Jeff Masters has a good post on the model used for prediction of the ash cloud.

http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/comment.html?entrynum=1464

It sure doesn't look like a climate model to me. It also looks like it did a pretty good job of predicting the cloud. Wasn't it the airline industry that insisted on a zero tolerance for ash standard? How much research have they done on the actual hazard presented by ash. What have they done to improve engine design to resist damage from ash inhalation?

As to continuing this series--I'm all for it. Your opening salvo inadvertently outing a Peilke blog was delicious. I don't suppose we can count on something like that every week.

Paul Middents

David B. Benson said...

Well, snce you like to blog, keep this series going.

EliRabett said...

Is that a lady bug? Is she box trained?

Michael Tobis said...

We could have another running game to figure out what Eli is going on about this time.

Anna Haynes said...

I think this is great. I could see the series being a useful resource for lots of kinds of people - for weathermen and journalists to calibrate their skills&knowledge (i.e. to aid the ones that don't know they don't know, to recognize it), for teachers to assign to their students for critical thinking, ...

And puzzles are inherently more interesting than getting lectured at.

Carry on.
(Not all the time though; interspersed with your other posts.

Michael Tobis said...

Ah, it's the matter of a comma. Yes she is friends with Gladly, the cross-eyed bear!

Paul said...

Actually it's "Gladly, my cross eyed bear".

Frank Bi said...

A deeper 'error', in my opinion, might be how the article talks about "the airline industry" like it's all-important.

The airspace closure cost "the airline industry over $100 million a day". So? What does that even mean to the average guy? There's no sense of how exactly this cost relates to changes in the salaries of the pilots, the stewardesses, the air marshals, etc. Would life have been that much better for this hard-working people had the airspace not been closed?

And what about the plane passengers? How does the loss experienced by "the airplane industry" translate to losses for passengers? Well, maybe Daniel Foster thinks that the safety of passengers should be bought and sold for a price?

-- bi

Rattus Norvegicus said...

I thought that this was a much bigger error:

"So atmospheric models have in a crucial instance failed to make accurate short-term predictions in a way that cost the world economy $1.7 billion. How many hundreds of billions — or trillions — are we to spend based on atmospheric modeling that reaches out centuries into the future?"

Since the zero-tolerance standard was a result of a few harrowing experiences with airliners flying though an ash cloud and have complete engine flameouts, what is known to rational people as empirical evidence, I don't know where the theoretical part comes in. The models (ECMWF in this case, which is a pretty good weather model) just predicted the weather and helped to project where the ash cloud was going to go.

But hey, this is what is happening because of the anti-science campaign which has been going on for years.

BTW, NPR had a decent report on this on Morning Edition today. They pointed out that one of the main reasons for the problem was the congested airspace over Europe which limits the possibilities for rerouting around problems such as an ash cloud.

Kooiti MASUDA said...

If D. Foster really thinks that the number "$1.7 billion" credible as the impact to the airline industry in 6 days, "over $100 million per day" is an understatement. It should more appropriately be expressed as "over $200 million" or "nearly $300 million". His text effectively says that the quantity he describes as $1.7 billion may as well be $0.6 billion.

A possible consitstent interpretation of what D. Foster meant is that the incident caused loss of $1.7 billion to the industry, and that the loss would be $0.6 billion less than that if the industry ignored forecasts by atmospheric models. But I think that the text is cryptic if the author meant this.