John A has briefly come out of retirement and set up a CA bulletin board, see here for prototype – which I’m hoping will resolve some blog operating issues. The Bulletin Board presently has 4 main forums and provides for threads within a forum like other boards. I can see a couple of advantages to this.
The big problem for me right now in managing the blog is the huge discrepancy between where I stand on proxy issues and physics issues.
In the multiproxy area, at this point, I’ve become expert in the discipline. I know exactly what’s new and what isn’t new and more or less where each new study fits. When I was at AGU, I was flattered and pleased by the familiarity and interest of several leading paleo-ocean scientists in the blog; they said that they read the blog regularly, got ideas from it. A few dendros were even very friendly. So to some extent, the blog has established a technical niche based on my personal knowledge of the data and methods. Yes, I need to write up articles to collate many of the observations made here, but the regular audience has got a pretty good idea by now of what one can expect and not expect from proxy reconstructions.
For general readers, in a way, the very success of the criticisms of the millennial proxy reconstructions has caused them to lose interest in the topics. (On a personal basis, I haven’t lost interest in them as there are many interesting academic issues that I find intriguing whether or not they “matter” to climate policy.) Even if the Hockey Stick is wrong (as one Energy and Commerce Committee member put it – even if Mann had never been born), AGW is still an issue. Arguably the focus in IPCC TAR on the Hockey Stick distracted them from trying to present the real arguments to the public.
However, in the physics area, I’m not expert. I’ve got some thoughts, but I’m not intimately familiar with the literature, the methodology. Readers here want to know how you get to 2.5-3 deg C from doubled CO2 – step-by-step through radiation, atmospheric physics, radiative-convective models, GCMs, whatever. No missing steps. So do I.
Any scientist from another discipline attempting to understand these things from first principles starting from IPCC is, in my opinion, going to be very frustrated, as the paper trail, if it exists, is hard to find.
I think that the way that I do things can be help general readers understand some of the physics issues. I start with IPCC, try to determine the provenance of their results, working backwards through the literature. In my opinion, this is a logical way to do things although it takes time. As noted elsewhere, I think that IPCC has been horrendously negligent in failing to provide a proper exposition of these topics. (I’m not criticizing the use of cartoons per se – don’t have any problem with cartoons; quite the contrary, I’m a big believer in cartoons as distilling the essence of a point. I’m critical of the seeming disconnect between the cartoons and any documented provenance.)
I’m not in a position to wade through GCMs, but I think that there is a useful approach via the radiative-convective models, which are intrinsically interesting in a mathematical way. In addition, my own hunch is that the salient CO2 issues should be identifiable through 1-D radiative-convective models and that the 3-D models probably introduce a myriad complications irrelevant to the CO2 issues. I think that I can see a path towards picking away at how 4 wm-2 is arrived at, how feedbacks work etc.
Unlike many readers here, I’m not the sort of person who assumes that specialists are wrong. I presume that they are right. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not worthwhile for general readers to understand the arguments. While specialists like to mystify their specialties, I’m firmly of the belief that things that are well understood can be explained. If you look at the details of calculations, you sometime notice problems. I was surprised at the error-proneness of the Mann corpus; I certainly didn’t expect to find what Eli Rabett describes as such as “garbage can” of problems, but there it was. I would be very surprised if there was a similar garbage can in the greenhouse physics. But I see no harm in trying to work through whatever calculations that I can.
Now the blog management problem for me is that any such thread seems to open the floodgates for many readers who have their pet theories about what’s wrong with climate models, their own opinions which are all too often much too angry for my liking. In my opinion, many of the most active posters here on these issues fail to spend nearly enough time understanding how the conventional argument works and far too much time trying to prove their pet theories. I have a hard enough time trying to understand the conventional arguments, so I really am uninterested in trying to understand alternative theories until I understand exactly how the conventional argument works.
I get very frustrated when the blog seems to get turned upside down by these commenters. It’s not that the topics aren’t important; they are. But the noise level becomes far too high. Perhaps a bulletin board structure will enable me to distance myself enough from these comments so that I become less frustrated by them.
Many climate scientists get very frustrated at mischaracterizations and misunderstandings of what seem to them to be elementary issues in climate science. In my opinion, they have only themselves to blame for IPCC’s failure to provide an adequate exposition (and for what it’s worth, long before AR4 was scoped, I suggested to someone familiar and involved with scoping that they provide such an exposition. So it’s not like I’m criticizing them after the fact.) As I;ve mentioned before, they should start looking in the mirror a little more rather than blaming others.
Anyway, as a form of blog management, I’m proposing to move discussion of physics-based issues to a Bulletin Board and not to permit blog comments on physics topics anymore.
This may have another advantage. When I get interested in a topic, I tend to write notes to the blog. Often, as we’re seeing right now, the notes are inter-related, which then creates a chaotic situation for someone wanting to comment and no one can really keep track of things. A forum-based mechanism might allow better for this. I’m mulling over how blog comments and bulletin board comments might inter-relate and would welcome ideas and suggestions.