Force F from outer space

tf Most normal people would have been content to have produced one game-changing theory of climate but David Evans is not a normal person. No! He has squillions of degrees from Really Prestigious universities and has, on his own, invented entire new types of Fourier analysis. So it is with no surprise – rather, with a dull grey sense of the inevitable – that I note (thank you JM and ATTP) that his latest theory has thunked onto the doormat like junk mail. ATTP attempts to make some sense of DE’s confusion over partial derivatives – they’re the work of the devil I tell you – and I’ll try to point out the more obvious errors in New Science 7: Rerouting Feedback in Climate Models.

Let’s start with the first sentence: All the establishment models assume carbon dioxide warms the sky, which leads to the surface warming. Which is wrong. To be fair, those aren’t the brilliant DE’s words, they come from the only-somewhat-less-brilliant-as-the-moon-is-outshone-by-the-sun Jo Nova as an intro. In this case she it is not entirely clear that she has parsed correctly, because the actual article starts In post 5 we noted that the architecture of the conventional model only allows feedbacks that are responses to surface warming, thereby omitting any feedbacks that are primarily in response to climate drivers. So whether their nonsense is upside down or not I don’t know, but either way up its just wrong. So I suppose I need to read part 5. Which contains stuff like The conventional basic model assumes, is built on the idea that nothing causes changes to Earth’s climate unless it works through surface heating — and the GCMs have the same architecture. Cloud cover does not change ice cover. Ocean currents don’t change cloud cover. Changes in biology don’t change clouds. Only changes in surface temperature changes cloud cover. This is so wrong its hard to know where to start. He continues When feedbacks were introduced to the conventional model (see post 3), they are applied to the surface temperature but not the climate drivers so I suppose I need to read part 3. They are very proud of part 3: A feast. A feast! For those who want the meat, the math and the diagrams says JN; Here is the conventional basic climate model, in full says DE. And its all very sad. And I really do mean that. In the sense I’ve tried to explain at “Dr” Roy Spencer is sad and lonely and wrong. These are intelligent people saying very silly things, because they have no-one to talk to who has a clue. And the reason they don’t talk to people who have a clue is (a) because they’ve alienated all such; and (b) they would refuse to talk to them if offered the chance. [Update: Nick Stokes has a nice example.] DE wants to talk about G = (absorbed solar radiation) – (outgoing longwave radiation), which is dead exciting, and he puts up an equation.

jn-again Isn’t it a nice equation? Its got partial derivatives ‘n’ all. Probably, its part of his partial derivative confusion. But, its got nothing at all to do with how GCMs work. So I don’t think there’s any point going any further with the wrongness; I’ll attempt to explain The Truth and see if it helps; because likely other people don’t understand this either. I find I’ve touched on this before – in 2013 – but didn’t really make it clear, unless you already know it. So I’ll try harder.

Emergent versus imposed properties

An example, from the game of Go, on the off chance that you play it so might understand. In Go, you place stones on the board and try to surround territory, and kill your opponents stones. A group of stones can be finally killed – notice that I’ve elided detail there – when the stones forming the group have no liberties left. This leads to the concept of a group being “alive” when it has two “eyes” – non-removable internal liberties. Lots of play, and lots of the fighting, centers around forming or removing eyes. You would be hard pressed to understand any game without understanding the concept. But “eyes” don’t exist in the rules. It is, instead, an emergent property.

Similarly, “climate sensitivity” doesn’t exist in the coupled atmosphere-ocean GCMs that everyone thinks of as “the IPCC models”. It is a useful concept, it can be derived from model output, but its not part of the models2. Nor, indeed, is the balance between incident and outgoing radiation3. There is nothing like DE’s “G” in the AOGCMs. Things like climate sensitivity do exist in the highly simplified models that are tuned to the GCM outputs and used to run some sensitivity tests – but these aren’t the things that people think about when they talk about “the conventional basic climate model”.

So, at base, DE’s error is just to confuse two very different types of model. Note, however, that you can’t solve his problem by saying “oh yes well of course – I actually meant the simplified models” – because those aren’t the ones that people rely on to turn the physics into scenarios of how climate changes if you change CO2; they aren’t the ones that you poke if you want to understand how the GHE works. That’s done with the complex models.

[Update: post 9 of DE’s series makes the error again. It quotes Hansen: The patterns of temperature change are remarkably similar in the [total solar irradiance] and C02 experiments… This similarity suggests that, to first order, the climate effect due to several forcings including various tropospheric trace gases may be a simple function of the total forcing. And then parses that as this is Hansen saying that experiments based on his computer models show extra sunlight and extra CO2 have the same effect – which is nearly right; its not “the same” its “to first order”, but that’s not the important problem, the problem is the continued parsing His models are based on the basic climate model, which treats all forcings the same. No! the model doesn’t treat all forcings the same. They have it backwards. What the sophisticated models show is that the result of different forcings is often similar; but (again) that isn’t built into the models; it isn’t an assumption; its a result.

Note that this, too, makes it impossible for them to claim that they’re not talking about the big GCMs. Equation (1) of that post – which isn’t in such GCMs – once again makes it clear that they don’t understand the difference.]

So what does happen in yer AOGCM when you “increase the CO2”? Obviously, a massively complicated chain of complicated things, but I’ll attempt a massive oversimplification below. Some of which I understand. For the sake of simplicity, let us say that we suddenly double the CO2. In which case, all the way through the atmosphere, the radiation calculations change. It is tempting to say “and so the previous equilibrium is disturbed” but even that isn’t true. The model isn’t in equilibrium, except in “dynamic equilibrium”. Apart from anything else, there’s always the day-night cycle going on; and if you got rid of that, the atmospheric flow isn’t in stable equilibrium, only in dynamic equilibrium. Cast all that aside for the moment. Suddenly, there is more CO2, which means that the atmosphere (a) absorbs more long wave radiation (differently, in the multiple bands of LW that it uses) and (b) emits (ditto) more LW radiation. Exactly how that works out – in terms of different layers warming or cooling – is not entirely obvious, as the many attempts to explain stratospheric cooling witness. This happens throughout the model layers, and across the globe, everywhere differently, in terms of latitude and longitude. This will over time affect whether clouds form, the overall circulation patterns, the temperature of the surface, and all kids of everything in a pattern that lots of people have spent lots of time and papers trying to reduce into a comprehensible form.

Via twitter, The atmospheric general circulation model ECHAM6 is, I think, quite good if you want a sense of the complexity of the atmospheric component of a GCM. There are lots of equations in there, if you like equations. Section 2.3 describes radiative transfer, if that’s the kind of thing you like. One component of that is the various LW bands, which I’ll reproduce below:


No, that doesn’t tell you anything useful, unless you already know what it is :-)

So to return to the first sentence, no the models don’t assume that CO2 warms the sky. The models implement some basic radiation physics that says that changing the atmospheric composition affects how it absorbs and emits radiation at different frequencies; but after that its left up to the implementation of the physics to determine warming or cooling. And as we all know, the stratosphere cools under GW, so the first quoted sentence is wrong even on its own wrong terms. The third quoted sentence from DE is more in not-even-wrong territory, and is clearly just junk.


1. Yes, “F” does indeed stand for Fuckwit.
2. Actually, its not quite as simple as that. Climate sensitivity doesn’t exist as a variable or equation in the AOGCM models, but people do examine the models carefully for what the derived CS is. Quite how much the models are tuned to a desired or acceptable CS is a bit of an open question (insert appropriate link here; I’m pretty sure JA has ranted about this, but can’t find it right now). And if you do decide to change your model’s CS its not a simple matter of turning a knob; you end up fiddling with a bunch of stuff you decide you might have got wrong, and re-running it to see if that made a difference.
3 In the sense that there is no overall equation for this balance. Of course, it is a fundamental concept, and a model that doesn’t “balance” in equilibrium wouldn’t be much use. But that balance is made up of countless tiny little interactions.


* Others have noticed DE’s problems with partial derivatives.


  1. #1 ...and Then There's Physics

    I think we seem to have drawn the same basic conclusions. I actually tried to explain to DE on Bishop Hill that the partial differential equations he was claiming were being used in climate models, were not in GCMs. His response was that he was talking about a basic climate model. My obvious response was that they aren’t in a basic climate model either. This lead him to point out, to everyone else, that I was simply a “PR guy”. That, unfortunately, comes from our institute webmaster confusing what my Departmental role was, and claiming that I was the Director of Public Relations, when I wasn’t; such a role doesn’t even exist. Unfortunately I hadn’t looked at that webpage for years and only discovered the error when I found it on various “skeptic” blogs after I was outed. Presumably, though, it gave our “PhD from Stanford” a reason to ignore what I was saying :-)

  2. #2 John Mashey

    BUT, some woman named Miranda Devine writes and thus stakes her reputation on this Perth electrical engineer’s discovery will change climate change debate

    “A MATHEMATICAL discovery by Perth-based electrical engineer Dr David Evans may change everything about the climate debate, on the eve of the UN climate change conference in Paris next month.”

    “Dr Evans says his discovery “ought to change the world”.”

    “So, the new improved climate model shows CO2 is not the culprit in recent global warming. But what is?

    Dr Evans has a theory: solar activity. What he calls “albedo modulation”, the waxing and waning of reflected radiation from the Sun, is the likely cause of global warming.
    He predicts global temperatures, which have plateaued, will begin to cool significantly, beginning between 2017 and 2021. The cooling will be about 0.3C in the 2020s. Some scientists have even forecast a mini ice age in the 2030s.”

  3. #3 bigcitylib

    An example from Chess would have worked better. Go makes you come across as some kind of Orientalist Communist.

    [I’m trying to make up for the impression I’ve been giving recently that I’m some kind of wild-eyed Randian libertarian; so the opportunity to seem communist is welcome :-) -W]

  4. #4 Mal Adapted

    Tom Dayton:

    David Evans’s prominently, frequently self-proclaimed, and fervently defended “rocket scientist” labeling reeks of desperation for validation. He reminds me of that wack job who was promoting himself as an expert on delaying aging, whose main qualification in his public bio was his Graduate Record Exam score that is one of the test scores that grad schools use to screen applicants. (He never even went to grad school.)

    Hey, I resemble that remark 8^}! My score on the advanced biology part of the GRE got me into a highly-regarded PhD program. It wasn’t enough to get me the PhD, though. After spending two years trying to screw in that light bulb, I discovered I didn’t want to work that hard for validation, and found an easier way to make a living. It turns out that getting paid to chop wood and carry water is sufficiently validating.

    Happiness lies in adjusting your ambitions to your abilities.

  5. […] Force F from outer space tf Most normal people would have been content to have produced one game-changing theory of climate but David Evans is not a normal person. No! He has squillions of degrees from Really Prestigious universities and has, on his own, invented entire new … Read more on ScienceBlogs (blog) […]

  6. #6 GregH

    Thanks William Connolly for the GCM sketch, which was just technical enough to be interesting but not entirely inscrutable, and the F is for Fuckwit thing – I LOLd. Great piece of work.

  7. […] Source: Force F from outer space [Stoat] […]

  8. #8 Raymond Arritt
    moving to Montana soon

    Your patience is commendable. I’ve been following Dr. Evans’s series and have been tempted to comment, but kept getting stuck at “this is so wrong its hard to know where to start.”

    If Dr. Evans would like to know how climate models actually work I would be glad to recommend some references that he could consult.

    [I’ve even ventured into the Colonial wildlands. naturally, it did no good. At some point I’ll be obliged to extricate myself -W]

  9. #9 Chris Reynolds

    In engineering one comes across nutjobs with weird ideas based on a fundamental lack of grasp. They too get sidelined and ignored.

    Meanwhile in climate science…

  10. #10 ...and Then There's Physics

    [I’ve even ventured into the Colonial wildlands. naturally, it did no good. At some point I’ll be obliged to extricate myself -W]

    You’ve spurred me on to do the same. I may regret this. It will be my own fault, of course :-)

  11. #11 Eli Rabett

    Another exercise in strawman fabrication by Evans

  12. #12 Hank Roberts
    somewhere peerless, apparently

    Well, he claims he’s got 2 journal articles currently in peer review, in parallel with his post at his wife’s blog. It’s a test of the blog — if it’s working, the peers and the general blog commenters she attracts therewill arrive at the same conclusions.

  13. #13 Russell Seitz

    Dr Evans has a theory: solar activity. What he calls “albedo modulation”, the waxing and waning of reflected radiation from the Sun, is the likely cause of global warming.
    He predicts global temperatures, which have plateaued, will begin to cool significantly, beginning between 2017 and 2021. The cooling will be about 0.3C in the 2020s. ”

    [I was tempted to offer to bet him on that; but I knew it would be a waste of time as he’d find some excuse, so didn’t -W]

    Somebody must have a really big stockpile of white paint, or a lot of frozen sheep embryos.

    I prefer to modulate albedo the newfangled way, by adding air to water.

    [Its a cute idea. Did you get anyone to take it up? -W]

  14. #14 Everett F Sargent
    I don't know anymore

    Hank (and/or William),

    I’m thinking that the only people that could adequately respond to DE’s nonsense are actual climate modelers.

    I’m thinking that DE needs about three more degrees in climate modelling and applied mathematics.

    If one were really smart enough than one could learn the subject matter on their own.

    DE clearly isn’t smart enough (Where’s his own climate model?), he desperately needs some formal training by SME’s (via textbooks and lectures and a dissertation or three).

    Talking about climate modelling != Doing climate modelling and then talking about climate modelling.

    Cart before horse. Yeah, that’s the ticket!

  15. #15 Mal Adapted

    D’oh! My previous comment was intended for ATTP’s post on the same subject.

    [I did wonder :-) -W]

  16. #16 Hank Roberts
    out past Cassandra somewhere

    > adding air to water

    Eventually, someone will gene-splice some salt-water bacterium intending to produce a commercial source of detergent/surfactants, mistakenly pour some down the lab drain, and cover the entire ocean with little white bubbles.

    Problem solved.

  17. #17 Raymond Arritt
    City of Tiny Lites

    @Everett F Sargent (#14), I disagree. Dr. Evans is smart enough to understand climate modeling. All you need is math through differential equations along with some calculus-based physics. His degree in electrical engineering would have given him that. He’d have to do some background reading but he’s perfectly capable of understanding climate modeling.

    If he wants to.

    [DE is a classic example of a little maths being a dangerous thing. He’s capable of expanding a PDE, but not capable of realising it is irrelevant -W]

  18. #18 Arthur Smith

    I see David has adopted the Pielke stance of pointing to what he’s previously written as if that explains everything. Rather than allowing the general “basic” “textbook” or whatever model claim to so vaguely stand, maybe somebody can pin him down to a specific person or paper that he thinks is wrong? Unlikely I know, give the nature of straw men,

    [The long “trail of tears” style of posting is a good trick; it makes it hard to disentangle what he’s saying. But its become clear now – he’s been forced to say it several times – that he really is only talking about the “simple” GCMs. Which means that nothing he is saying matters; because he is talking about properties those models don’t have. Its not clear to me if his vagueness is deliberate, or more likely really does reflect the confusion in his own mind -W]

  19. #19 John Mashey

    #17 Raymond
    Based on track record, DE fits Pseudoskeptics are not skeptics, in his case, with a Sauron-class Morton’s Demon protecting him from unwanted information.

  20. #20 Brian Schmidt
    United States

    It’s too bad about David Evans. He seemed quite reasonable when I was negotiating my bet against him in 2007 (other than disbelieving mainstream science). It felt like a sincere belief on his part and not a way to propel himself to Galileohood.

    He might talk to me now (we’ve always gotten along) but I’m the wrong person to talk to, I don’t know this stuff.

    [Then you’d be perfectly placed to talk to him, since he doesn’t either ;-) -W]

  21. #21 Arthur Smith

    William – you note “he’s been forced to say it several times – that he really is only talking about the “simple” GCMs.” – but I don’t think he’s mentioned any specific model he’s actually trying to criticize. He does mention specifically the Planck response calculation described in Held and Soden, I assume that’s actually done with regular GCM code constrained in temperature. But that’s not a regular GCM calculation, that’s a highly constrained calculation to evaluate one parameter that’s helpful to understanding. And given that the parameter is found almost universally the same among all the different models, what does he actually claim is wrong about it? How would he do the calculation differently? Not that I have any hopes anybody could pin him down, but that seems to be the most specific he’s been on this so far, and I can’t see yet any statement of what exactly he thinks is wrong with it…

    [Meh; all I really care about is that he’s utterly confused, and not talking about the AOGCMs. As you suggest, trying to pin him down is a waste of time, and I’m not inclined to try. My feeling, from reading what he has said, is that he’s not genuinely interested in a conversation, and not really reading what I’m saying. He “knows” he is right, and he “knows” I’m wrong. Getting past that barrier of ignorance would require too much verbal violence, and would inevitably get derailed by the dittoheads at his site -W]

  22. #22 matt

    Probably not worth viewing, but here is Jo last night arguing Oz has “put in a great effort so far” and our low targets are justified because [Insert lame excuses]. No mention of “the science is crap cos my hubby is Galileo”. My guess is she knows science denial will mean no more invites to the public broadcaster.
    (Jo comes in at 9min)

    “we don’t have much capacity politically to do nuclear or hydro” therefore our low target is justified.

    “wind and solar, as you say, we are well placed to do them, are still only 1% of our total energy use and there is not much capacity to increase it.”

    Perhaps Germany can argue there is not much capacity to increase but even Jo at the start of her sentence knows this is crap.

    Everyone knows Jo doesn’t know her science, but as a “science presenter…& former TV host” she should at least invest in a teleprompter.

  23. #23 Arthur Smith

    Hey, looking at Evan’s “part 4” (the partial derivative issue) he is focused on the Planck response and the issue of changing one variable while keeping everything else fixed. But he doesn’t seem to get beyond a claim that the “framework” of that approach is wrong. Well, he’s actually right in a way – Andy Dessler pointed this out in his Ringberg talk (and has stated the same in several places):

    A better framework for understanding the no-feedbacks (Planck) response is to treat RELATIVE humidity as the thing you are keeping constant, rather than ABSOLUTE humidity – logically it makes a lot more sense because temperature and humidity always co-vary, but relative humidity not so much, and if you reduce temperatures in a place that has 100% relative humidity you end up with an unphysical supersaturated atmosphere, which makes very little sense. So Dessler proposed changing the way one estimates the no-feedbacks response by using relative humidity instead of absolute humidity as one of the “other things being kept constant” pieces, and the result is a much larger no-feedbacks value, and considerably smaller (but still almost certainly positive) remaining feedbacks.

    So Evans sort of has a point, one which Dessler has expressed much more clearly by giving an example of how one could do this calculation differently. Of course nothing changes about the actual sensitivity a model produces, only the allocation among “no-feedback” and “feedback” terms.

    [You should tell him. He’d be really pleased to have someone respectable agree with him -W]

  24. #24 Everett F Sargent
    I really don't care anymore

    Arthur Smith,

    So if DE doesn’t change the inputs to the ESM’s (DE doesn’t) and DE doesn’t change the guts of the ESM’s (DE doesn’t) then how does the output from the ESM’s ‘magically’ change?

    If there’s one thing I am certain about is that all deterministic models produce the exact same output in run after run if the code and inputs to the code do not change.

    Part 1 starts off with the premise that the ESM’s are wrong based solely on three classic Deniersville memes (but heck, I’m quite sure they could throw an infinite number of deeply flawed memes at the ECM’s for all that I would care).

    Parts 2-9 then are mostly about ECS which is an ’emergent’ property of the ESM’s.

    How one partitions the ECS calculation, as you have pointed out, is a matter of some debate amongst climate scientists:


    Quite obviously, redefining the output of the ESM’s, in this case ‘boiling down the numbers’ to a single number for ECS, has absolutely zero effect on the output of the ESM’s.

    The surface temperature as output from the ESM’s doesn’t change one iota.

    So unless DE changes the guts (equations) of an ESM in some meaningful way and/or changes the parameterizations of an ESM in some meaningful way (e. g. the the CO2 pipe thingie gets rerouted to the water vapor pipe thingie before it hits the surface thingie), DE has no proverbial ‘skin in the game’ as it were.

    So basically, DE’s three card monty or shell game or magic trick is just that …look a squirrel!

    To say that DE is rather clueless is an understatement.

  25. #25 Andrew

    I have no way of reaching our intermittently genial host directly, so am resorting to the medium of comments to ask him to delete my previous comment, on the grounds that it could cause distress to people who (no, not David Evans) do not deserve to have distress caused to them.

    [I don’t think my email address is hard to find, but comments will do. I’ve left yours, because I very much doubt it will distress anyone; I don’t know the going rate, BTW.

    Update: prev comment now removed, per request. It wasn’t that bad, honest -W]

  26. #26 Raymond Arritt
    Concentration Moon, over the camp in the valley

    So whatabout the new IPCC supremo?

    Saying he wants to “narrow down uncertainties about the future pace of global warming” doesn’t strike me as clueful, assuming he actually said it.

    [I’d rather hoped for someone I’d heard of; even better would be someone who shared my position: giant reports are too heavyweight, but the whingers should be told to f*ck off -W]

  27. #27 Arthur Smith

    Oh I don’t disagree that DE is confused or worse. However, I think there is a somewhat interesting scientific point buried in the mess. I have made an attempt to draw him out a bit further here:

  28. #28 Kevin O'Neill
    Franklin, WI USA

    I happened to read New Science 5: Error 2: Model architecture means all feedbacks work through the surface temperature?

    It starts out, “And the series continues, poking another hole in the models, with bigger holes to come.

    What if CO2 caused more greenery, which produced more volatile organic gases, which increased rainfall and changed cloud cover? The models would be blind to it.

    So I pointed out that state-of-the-art climate models do indeed model biogenic volatile organic gases and that one such model is MEGAN BVOC – used in CCSM.

    I also said, “Rather than assuming models don’t do something, you should pick an *actual* model and show where it’s incomplete or incorrect. The code and equations behind many models are available on the web. Instead you seem to be attacking a strawman – some nebulous climate model that doesn’t actually exist.”

    I never made it to the next paragraph :)

  29. #29 Mal Adapted
    On a blog with no comment-preview feature

    Brian Schmidt:

    It’s too bad about David Evans. He seemed quite reasonable when I was negotiating my bet against him in 2007 (other than disbelieving mainstream science). It felt like a sincere belief on his part and not a way to propel himself to Galileohood.

    Sincerity doesn’t excuse the Dunning-Kruger effect. Those who are unskilled and fail to recognize it evince unreasonable self-esteem, at best. I know that since I first heard about D-K, I’m more hesitant to make assertions about scientific fields I’m not competent in 8^}.

  30. #30 Steve Bloom
    SF Bay Area

    I saw what you did with that diagram selection, William. ;)

    Russell, Bangalore appears to have beaten you to the punch.

  31. #31 Chris O'Neill

    Everyone knows Jo doesn’t know her science, but

    I switched on that program part way through and thought this is some not-very-clever floozie (“Australia has done so much..”) hired by a lobby group. Then I found out who she was. Talk about unimpressive.

  32. #32 Bugs

    He seems to be labouring under the delusion that the simple model is the underpinning of the more complex models. To prove them wrong he just has to prove the “basic climate model” is wrong.

    From his blog.

    “If AGW is to ever be brought down, the conventional basic climate model has to be shown to be wrong. It is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the demise of AGW.

    If this series correctly shows the basic model is in serious error, then it will erode the belief in AGW among the scientists, which will eventually matter”

  33. #33 Russell Seitz


    Steve, nature got the drop on Bangalore around the time jellefish evolved. More or less annually, a tropical cyclone tears through a squishy planckton bloom and does this to some city on the lee shore :


    This sort of suds storm has nothing whatever to do with hydrosol, whose distinguishing feature is that the microbubbles that comprise them are too small to rise though the water – they exist and expire in Brownian suspension , generally in a matter of minutes. Please read the oceanographic section of the linked paper- and the September 2013 isssue of Environment.

  34. […] men det er få som bretter det ut som David Evans gjør på Jo Novas klimafornekterblogg for tiden. Stoat forklarer litt om hvordan hva som faktisk skjer i modellene, og ATTP prøver å forstå Evans’ […]

  35. #35 Everett F Sargent

    As Paris talks approach, not even Donald Trump’s fringe can hide desperation …

    Real 1st hand link that talks about Deniersville in general and Davie EvEns in particular.

    [And they almost get my name right -W]

    Posts #35/#36 are spam that opens up a new page asking you to download something (usually it’s an exe file). Caveat Emptor.

    [On reflection, I’ve spammed those two (so you’re now #35 and are thus spam, ha ha) -w]

  36. #36 Tom Dayton
    Silicon Valley

    Evans has posted a 20 page summary of his 19 “alternative model” posts. The conciseness makes more obvious the cluelessness and craziness.

    [And for those who might wish to read it, see -W]

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