The Sayings of Rasmus

Some of you accuse me from time to time of being sarcastic. It being the Christmas season, I will refrain the temptation to be sarcastic and present instead some sayings from Rasmus (Benestad), courtesy of our friends at realclimate, all conveniently taken from only one thread. There is much food for thought here. There is something inspirational in almost every phrase. I eagerly await more pearls.

atmospheric and oceanic tides are well-established now, and explained in terms of physics.

I can easily predict that the summar will be warmer than current (winter) conditions…

Science (here used in a wider meaning including engineering) has also formed our culture and enabeled you guys to read this blog.

I wouldn’t know much about hair growth products, but I am convinced that the field of meteorology is well-established and the forecasts useful.

Here is a reason why meteorologists do not use statistical models for weather forecasts. When you travel by plane, the aviation authority depends on good forecasts for your safety. Statistical models are not adequate. You really need to include the physics!!!

These are aspects the medical profession does not understand in every detail due to their baffling complexity, but medical doctors nevertheless do a very good job curing us for diseases, and shrinks heal our mental illnesses.

call me a nerd if you like

You are getting it! I think it’s others who don’t. The universe is not random. Physics rule.

El Nino also has a theory (or several).

It’s natural for molecules under Brownian motion to go on a hike through their random walks (this is known as diffusion), however, it’s quite a different matter if such behaviour was found for the global planetary temperature, as this would have profound physical implications.

You only have to trawl the scientific literature! Then you may ask if the scientific community is reliable. Think about the state of our modern civilisation, what would it have been without scientific progress? I would argue that many things taken for granted in our modern society has been piggybacked by science. Science (here used in a wider meaning including engineering) has also formed our culture and enabeled you guys to read this blog.

Right, there are two aspects to this radiation: the continuum associated with the atoms kinetic energy and the band absorption associated with the atomic electron configurations. The excitation of the molecules is caused by an absorption of a photon, as they cannot keep losing energy by through radiation without gaining some. Quantum physics determine what the electronic levels are, i.e. at which frequencies the line spectra are. But, in the real world, the lines broaden to frequnecy bands, due to several complicating factors.

[Response:The probability for this [Brownian movement of air molecules could conceivably cause all of the air in a room to collect in one corner of the room, thus suffocating the person sitting in a chair in the opposite corner of the room reading Gamow’s book] happening is infinitesimally small, so for practical reasons, this can be regarded as an impossibility (unless you are a fan of the Hitch hikers guide to the Galaxy).

It’s important to take physical considerations into accout and to get both the physics and the statistics right.

Tell me anouther field which runs model predictions as extensively as weather prediction.

I wouldn’t know much about hair growth products, but I am convinced that the field of meteorology is well-established and the forecasts useful. Science in general – climate science has a common base with general sciences in terms of physics & chemistry – has also proved to be successful interm of advancing our civilisation.

When it comes to oye example, a model for planetart motion is one thing (could even be scientific), to say whatever it means for peoples’ life is another (religion, in my eyes).

Economists have, for a large part, realised the limitations of their forecasting ability. Climate scientists seem a little less aware of the limitations of their craft because of their being based in the physical and experimental sciences (and the statistical techniques that implies). [Response:Personally, I think the other way round – to my knowlredge, no economist sent people to the moon – the scientists & engineers did! My proposition is that our highly advanced society is built foremost on science, and secondary on economy (which is primarily a means of distributing our goods).

Basically, your statistical model needs to be representative of the process you are analysing

I admitedly have taken a couple of courses in economics which I found dull – still got good grades though…). I still could not resist making the critical (and provoking) remarks.

Here is a reason why meteorologists do not use statistical models for weather forecasts. When you travel by plane, the aviation authority depends on good forecasts for your safety. Statistical models are not adequate. You really need to include the physics!!!

But, to use quantum physics for macroscales is in general silly (onless you look at line emissions and alike), as you would spend the rest of your life calculating.

the world is not stochastic, but there are physical laws which creates order (if it were merely stochastic, then you could explain how we could sit here having this discussion – there would be no life forms..

It’s therefore somewhat ironical that a process, once used to derive knowledge about the underlying physics, now is presented as if things just happen randomly without any thought about the physics.

Sadly, the degree statistics is tought in physics is in my opinion not enough

If the temperature takes a hike, then there must be a supply of energy: first law of thermo-dynamics

I think it’s not necessary to go to lengths with statistical analysis to arrive at the conclusion that a discrimination of the null-hypothesis depends on how you model the null-process – I’d be surprised if it were otherwise (isn’t it logical?).

the discovery of atoms as a result of stochastic Brownian motion have enabled far more useful predictions than what a simple stochastic view ever could.

Another common false statment, …is that the climate system is not well understood. … If this statement were generally true, then how could climate scientists make complex models – GCMs – that replicate the essential features of our climate system? The fact that GCMs exist and that they provide a realistic description of our climate system, is overwhelming evidence demonstrating that such statement must be false – at least concerning the climate scientists.


  1. Paul Penrose
    Posted Dec 20, 2005 at 7:14 PM | Permalink

    There are so many factual errors, logical fallacies, and double-speak there that I don’t even know where to start. Oh the heck with it, I’ve got better things to do with my time. Besides, he does a good enough job of discrediting himself that he does not need my help.

  2. Douglas Hoyt
    Posted Dec 20, 2005 at 7:17 PM | Permalink

    The amplitude of the sunspot cycle is a chaotic, random, stochastic process with relatively high autocorrelation that cannot be modeled based on physics alone. And, guess what, the sun is a macroscopic system. Furthermore, if the sun and Earth are coupled with the Earth responding to solar influences, then the Earth becomes a stochastic system as well.

    Another example from astrophysics would be stars that are irregular variables. I don’t think that the output of these stars, which are macroscopic, can be predicted although they must be obeying all the laws of physics.

    So Benestad’s statement that “the world is not stochastic” is not proven.

  3. TCO
    Posted Dec 20, 2005 at 8:58 PM | Permalink

    He’s really something else. Mike needs to get him under control.

  4. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Dec 20, 2005 at 10:36 PM | Permalink

    I’ll bet that Rasmus is put at the end of the bench. It’s too bad. It was great while it lasted.

    His daring prediction that summer will be warmer than winter looks like it will rout the sceptics. Who will ever again doubt the forecasting genius of realclimate? And this news that tides are well-established, complete with an explanation based in physics? O you sceptics, who thought that these stories of tides were simply an old wives’ tale. Will they stop at nothing in laying bare the secrets of the universe? If we’re good, maybe we’ll learn the Caramilk secret.

  5. John A
    Posted Dec 21, 2005 at 3:45 AM | Permalink

    All of the above quotations could be explained by a simple computer model where the utility of his writings is inversely proportional to his blood-alcohol level.

    As for

    If the temperature takes a hike, then there must be a supply of energy: first law of thermo-dynamics

    I must have missed this particular formulation of the first law of thermodynamics in college.

  6. Theo Richel
    Posted Dec 21, 2005 at 6:55 AM | Permalink

    Steve may be sarcastical from time to time, but the spellingchecker of my version of MS Frontpage suggests that I change the word hockeystick-audit into hockeystickautist. My that software gets more intelligent every day.

  7. Jeff Norman
    Posted Dec 21, 2005 at 7:12 AM | Permalink

    This is all very petty. I think Paul has the right idea.

  8. Michael Jankowski
    Posted Dec 21, 2005 at 7:39 AM | Permalink

    Sadly, the degree statistics is tought in physics is in my opinion not enough

    I will agree 100% with this statement. Of course, I think the same applies to the deficiencies of statistical education in many fields, including climatology.

  9. Terry
    Posted Dec 21, 2005 at 8:12 AM | Permalink

    There are a lot of things going on with the Rasmus postings so it is quite difficult to tease each out and address them individually.

    First, there seems to be a language problem. Much of the awkwardness and murkiness comes from that alone.

    Second, even after language issues are stripped out, there seems to be an odd understanding of statistics and an equally odd notion that physics and statistics are somehow contradictory or at least incompatible. I just don’t get this. Perhaps he has a valid point that an understanding of the physics should inform the modeling (no argument there), but that doesn’t mean that statistics are not also essential.

    But, most importantly and disappointingly, the whole point of the autocorrelation problem appears to have been missed. Put simply, in a highly autocorrelated series, it is essential that the autocorrelation be taken into account. It is very difficult to accurately estimate long-term trends and, in turn, those long-term trends have an enormous impact on the inferences you can draw from the data (often making the confidence intervals much larger). The answer to the qustion of “is the current increase in temperature historically unusual” is basically a question about the historical variance of global temperature, i.e., have temperatures historically varied as they have in the past century. Failure to correctly account for autocorrelation in a variance estimate can easily cause enormous errors.

  10. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Dec 21, 2005 at 11:27 AM | Permalink

    re #9 – I agree. It’s amazing that they have to grasp at an unpublished study (Stone et al, 2005) to deal with such a fundamental issue. There’s a lot of hair on Stone et al, if you look at it. Do any of these guys actually read one another’s studies beyond the abstract? Why is it up to us to leave no Stone unturned or no Stern untoned?

  11. Anders
    Posted Dec 23, 2005 at 9:26 AM | Permalink

    Re #9: It is not a language problem. The akwardness is there when hes writes in Norwegian, too.

  12. TCO
    Posted Dec 23, 2005 at 10:49 AM | Permalink

    I knew someone might try to excuse Rasmus’s poor logic on the basis of language problem. But I don’t buy it. I’ve worked with Russians who were lousy writers, but great thinkers. You could still see the brains poking through the poor writing. Rasmus just lacks the ability to think clearly.

  13. Anders
    Posted Jan 27, 2006 at 2:38 AM | Permalink

    I know this thread has not been in use for quite a while, but I just remembered something. Rasmus has been advertising regional climate forecasts here in Norway, i.e. predicting the “average” weather for the next 3 months. This started back in 2003/2004 with Rasmus doing some advertising through newspaper interviews where he made the impression it was now already possible already during Easter to predict what summer would be like.

    As I recall, in 2004 he used this to predict that the summer of 2004 would be warmer than average and I believe he even gave sume numbers. The forecast was for the months May, June and July. May 2004 was one of the coldest in recorded history in Norway, but that did not bother Rasmus too much. He still had 2 more months to go. But as June came with rain and cold (I think here in Trondheim we had something in the order of 8-12 degrees and rain) the newspaper asked why he had missed so badly. His reply? “Well, it was only the start of the period which was cols. You have to remember I was giving you the average. Since it is cold now this means the remaining two months will be even warmer…..” Maybe that tells you enough of his statistical skills? Needless to say, he has not been very vocal on such issues afterwards (or maybe his media friends are not too interested anymore).

    As far as I can remember his forecast was given in March/April, when we had an unusually warm period. Those months are normally in the 0-10 Celsius range, but in 2004 we had temperatures above 20 degrees.

    It should be noted that our State Meteorologists said that regional climate forecasts should be considered no better than a 50/50 chance of being right (i.e. same as guessing). The reason they publsih them is to show the public what the skill actually is. So far, the 50/50 is spot on.

  14. Brad H
    Posted Jan 27, 2006 at 7:47 AM | Permalink

    Re: # 13


    You might be interested in Warwick Hughes’ site. He has tracked the Australian Bureau of Meteorology’s success in predicting weather patterns a few months in advance. The result: dismal.

    I’m no scientist, but the reasons I became interested in climate science in the first place were two-fold. First, experience taught me that my local meteorologists couldn’t reliably predict the weather even a few days in advance, let alone 1yr, 5yrs, 100yrs.

    Second, one thing I do know about is computers, and I know that they can’t even remotely approach the level of complexity of a single human brain. If they can’t begin to replicate that state and no single brain can even envisage all of the variables which might be a factor in climate, let alone determine the weight to be given to each variable, nor assess how they might interact with each other, then how could a computer possibly help solve the problem of future weather prediction?

    The simple (and obvious) answer is that it can’t. All we humans can do, at present, is say, “Well, the last few years were increasingly warm, so the next 100 will be even warmer.” This is precisely the logic which most people apply to the stockmarket and the reason why many do their shirts.

    I wonder if Mann, et. al. also believe that stockmarket and horse racing software can pick a winner for them. I can assure you that those two systems are a not less complex than the Earth’s climate.

  15. Brad H
    Posted Jan 27, 2006 at 7:56 AM | Permalink

    Last sentence should read:

    “I can assure you that those two systems are not less complex than the Earth’s climate.”

    Bad phrasing, anyway. Probably better to say that Earth’s climate is at least as complex as horses and stockmarkets.

  16. Dave Dardinger
    Posted Jan 27, 2006 at 10:31 AM | Permalink

    I have The Weather Channel up on my computer and usually keep it in the 10-day forcast mode. I notice that they seem to base the last few days of the forcast on regression to the mean. This means that if we’re in a warm spell it will show cooling on the out days and then these same days will gradually become warmer as they get closer.

    I suppose to those who don’t see what they’re doing it looks pretty impressive to see those cooler days coming, even if they never seem to arrive.

  17. Posted Mar 17, 2008 at 1:42 PM | Permalink

    “”Boyfriends last 6 months
    Friends last 6 years
    But Mom and Dad will always be here.””
    Famous Saying…

  18. Posted Mar 18, 2008 at 5:46 AM | Permalink

    “Where there is a will, there is a way to hundreds of relatives and friends.”
    This saying seems funny to a first time reader.
    But it is a good one..

  19. Yorick
    Posted Mar 18, 2008 at 5:56 AM | Permalink

    I thought that this reply to Shaviv was so idiotic that it couldn’t have been Rasmus, now I am not so sure. It just sounds like the warmy ravings we see here all the time by the seriously ill-informed.

    We want to unravel the facts behind climate variability. In science, one challenge other views if one finds them strange or not credible. This is what we habve done. You make claims based on your own subjective belief og based on far-fetched speculations. The fact is that the claim that the recent global warming is due to GCR is not supported be any real evidence; there is no credible trend in the solar activity or GCR in the last ~50 years.

    Nir Shaviv’s blog

    This was in response to Shaviv’s observation that the argument that Rasmus was using didn’t apply to our galaxy since the number of arms was wrong in Rasmus’s analysis.

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