The Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw®
Life Extension NewsTM
Volume 16 No. 8 • September 2013

Climate Models Deal Poorly With Clouds and Vegetation

State Of The Art Model Couldn’t Simulate Known Droughts

The latest report in the 18 April 2013 Nature on climate models indicates continuing difficulties in dealing with environmental factors affecting the climatic influence of water (as in clouds, vegetation, precipitation, and droughts). Indeed, the test discussed in the Nature news article1 showed that the model couldn’t figure out what had actually taken place using data on large droughts (those lasting several decades each), which is far easier to do than to start from now and project into the future to predict the occurrence of droughts where you don’t have any data on when and where such large drought events may take place. And when you add to that the fact that water vapor is a vastly more important greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, it would appear that current, even state-of-the-art models are unlikely to provide usable projections on what future climate will be doing.

The article was based on work done by Sloan Coats of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York and his colleagues. Although the simulations did “find” a number of droughts lasting several decades each, these droughts didn’t happen when the real mega-droughts happened. In fact, the article said, “drought occurrences were no more in agreement when the model was fed realistic values for variables that influence rainfall than when it ran control simulations in which the values were unrealistically held constant.”1 One of the study participants, Jason Smerdon, was quoted as saying “The model seems to miss some of the dynamics that drive large droughts.” The group also tested other models, which did no better, even failing to reproduce a series of multi-decadal droughts that occurred in the southwest U.S. during the Medieval Climate Anomaly (until recently known as the Medieval Warming).

Finally, the article reported that a projection prepared for the Colorado Water Conservation Board revealed that models even disagreed on the direction of regional changes, with disagreements on whether mean precipitation in Colorado will increase or decrease.

After telling us this, the last paragraph assures us that these failures “don’t change the larger picture.” We should feel pretty confident, “scientists” say, that the southwest will warm and that water will become scarcer. Yes indeed. We would have to be downright mean and nasty skeptics (or, gasp, “deniers”) to doubt the “big picture” (of human-caused warming disaster presumably) when the models deal poorly with the dynamics of water, which in a climate model (for planet Earth, in any event) is surely the biggest factor affecting the overall picture.


  1. Schiermeier. Climate models fail to “predict” US droughts. Nature. 496:284 (2013).

It is in the nature of a hypothesis, when once a man has conceived it, that it assimilates everything to itself, as proper nourishment; and, from the first moment of your begetting it, it generally grows stronger by everything you see, hear, or understand.
— Laurence Sterne

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