Unlicensed Engineers


Climate Science – March 14, 2007

This is a very good article.  I strongly urge everyone to read it.  Mr. Pielke runs a great blog and I hope that this site does as much justice to this topic as his does.

The article is guest written by Hendrik Tennekes.  There are no credentials given for Mr. Tennekes but he appears to be authoritative on the issue.  I won’t be able to convey all of his material in this entry so please click on the link at the bottom and read his original article.

Mr. Tennekes discusses the inherent inaccuracies of climate modeling (and computer modeling in general).  He points out that there is no review board for climate models and that the scientists that create these models are not controlled by the same rules of laws and ethics that govern engineers but their impact on our life may be as dramatic.

This is one of many issues climate software types do not seem to realize. Climate simulations are products of virtual reality, and cannot precipitate the kind of disaster caused by a collapsing bridge or an airliner crashing into a skyscraper.

Climate simulations are engineering products, if only because the numbers they produce have substantial impact on the future of society. Al Gore, for example, travels around the world with an Inconvenient Truth based on his interpretation of inputs he received from scientists. I submit that the scientists who fed him with their projections are guilty of trespassing the limits of responsible professional conduct.

More than once I have dreamed of regulations that would cut the retirement pay of climate modelers in half if their forecasts proved off the mark at their retirement. Such an arrangement would also help them keep their feet on the ground concerning the prediction horizon of climate scenarios. Psychologically speaking, a prediction fifty or a hundred years into the future is an idle gesture.

Another shortcoming of climate modeling perceived as an engineering enterprise is that no records are kept of failures. For many years I’ve heard through the grapevine of model runs being thrown in the wastebasket if they do not conform to preconceived notions, but I have never seen a peer-reviewed paper that even comes close to a scientific analysis of what went wrong.

Climate modeling needs a professional, peer-reviewed journal devoted exclusively to the codes employed and to mishaps in modeling. I propose that it be titled the Journal of Climate Codes and Failures. All other journals in the field of climate research would accept a manuscript submitted to them only if the authors could prove that they had simultaneously submitted their reports of code changes, incidents and mishaps to JCCF.

As it stands, they cannot learn, because all accidents are swept under the rug. In my mind that is unprofessional. Worse, I consider it unforgivable. Just think of it: a scientific discipline that has arranged things such that its members CANNOT learn! Truly inconceivable!

My sophomore class in aeronautical engineering started with the professor proclaiming: “A perfectly safe airplane does not exist. If you can’t stand that idea, seek your vocation elsewhere.”

…a column for the Dutch science monthly Natuur & Techniek (Nature & Technology):“Physicists dream of Nobel prizes, engineers dream of mishaps.”  Living in retirement now, I want to add that: “Engineers learn from their mistakes, modelers get stuck in fantasies.” I submit the failure paradigm is a hard but fair task master.

Please click here to read this link.

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