Man bites dog

by Russ Roberts on December 13, 2011

in Complexity & Emergence, Data, Environment, Fooled by Randomness, Risk and Safety, Science

Two hurricane forecasters admit that while their models fit beautifully in hindsight, they were incapable of predicting the future (HT: John Hiller):

Two top U.S. hurricane forecasters, revered like rock stars in Deep South hurricane country, are quitting the practice because it doesn’t work.

William Gray and Phil Klotzbach say a look back shows their past 20 years of forecasts had no value.

The two scientists from Colorado State University will still discuss different probabilities as hurricane seasons approach — a much more cautious approach. But the shift signals how far humans are, even with supercomputers, from truly knowing what our weather will do next.

Gray, recently joined by Klotzbach, has been known for decades for an annual forecast of how many hurricanes can be expected each official hurricane season (which runs from June to November.) Southerners hang on his words, as even a mid-sized hurricane can cause billions in damage.

Last week, the pair dropped this announcement out of a clear, blue sky:

“We are discontinuing our early December quantitative hurricane forecast for the next year … Our early December Atlantic basin seasonal hurricane forecasts of the last 20 years have not shown real-time forecast skill even though the hindcast studies on which they were based had considerable skill.”

I salute Klotzbach and Gray for their integrity.

Interestingly, I can only find mainstream media coverage of this story in the Ottawa Citizen and a blog at the Houston Chronicle.

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Jon Murphy December 13, 2011 at 11:38 am

That takes guts for Klotzbach and Gray to do what they did. I join you in saluting them.

GAAPrulesIFRSdrools December 13, 2011 at 12:25 pm

That takes guts for Klotzbach and Gray to do what they did.

Ergo, we’ll not be expecting anything like this from Paul Krugman

Shidoshi December 13, 2011 at 12:29 pm

What the hell does Krugman have to do with this?

GAAPrulesIFRSdrools December 13, 2011 at 1:31 pm

Economics is another field where there are a great many prognosticators, few if ever get anything right.

I refer you to NN Taleb.

Jon Murphy December 13, 2011 at 12:29 pm

There was a time when Krugman admitted he could be wrong or not know the future with all certainty. That Krugman has passed (may he rest in peace).

Greg Webb December 13, 2011 at 12:34 pm

Please stop trolling. Your comments are rarely insightful. You repeat what others have said. Do you post your comments at work? Does your boss know about this? If you worked for me, you’d be out the door.

GAAPrulesIFRSdrools December 13, 2011 at 1:29 pm

Do you post your comments at work?

Do you? (note post time 12:34)

Does your boss know about this?

Does yours? Oh never mind “occupy”‘s bosses don’t care what you do.

If you worked for me, you’d be out the door.

If anybody worked for you, they’d be out the door.

And for you to call anybody a troll, is laughable.

Greg Webb December 13, 2011 at 5:45 pm

Stupid Pretender. Have a steak and enjoy life instead of trolling here at the Cafe. Jon knows more about economics than you ever will. Also, no one works for unemployed Marxists.

GAAPrulesIFRSdrools December 14, 2011 at 11:03 am


Have you thought about getting mental help?

I’m rarely in disagreement with Jon, so I didn’t know we were disputants.

I’m neither unemployed nor a Marxist, and only a blithering idiot would assert such a thing. You, on the other hand post like you are both. People with positions of substantial responsibility don’t make statements like “if you worked for me..”, only wannabees and hasbeens.

Now get back to occupying.

Daniel Kuehn December 13, 2011 at 5:38 pm

Paul Krugman doesn’t forecast that I’m aware of.

Mesa Econoguy December 13, 2011 at 8:31 pm
Greg Webb December 13, 2011 at 8:42 pm

Wow! With that incredibly off base forecast, you would have thought Paul Krugman would have learned that the economy is too complex for anyone to forecast what is going to happen and too complex to be run through central planning.

Chucklehead December 13, 2011 at 11:42 am

The number of formulas that fit past data points, but yield different future data points, is infinite.

Bastiat Smith December 13, 2011 at 12:48 pm


Ray Lehmann December 13, 2011 at 11:44 am

The original post misstates what the CSU team is doing. They are emphatically not “quitting the practice” (although Gray has been quasi-retired since 2005 — it’s Klotzbach who is now the primary author.) They are simply discontinuing their previous practice of issuing December forecasts of the next season, which tended to be ignored most of the time anyway. They are still going to issue the much more high-profile April, June and August forecasts.

Jon Murphy December 13, 2011 at 11:56 am

That makes sense. It’s a lot easier to forecast something 1-2 quarters out as opposed to 6-8.

Jon Murphy December 13, 2011 at 11:57 am

That should say “months” not “quarters.”

Krishnan December 13, 2011 at 11:45 am

If they had concluded that the reason they stopped making forecasts was because of “Global Warming” – THEN the mainstream media would have covered the story “Researchers state how difficult it is to make predictions because of the HUGE impact due to Global Warming” (or something like that)

Methinks1776 December 13, 2011 at 11:51 am

I gave up forecasting stock prices for exactly the same reason.

Slappy McFee December 13, 2011 at 2:39 pm

I gave up forecasting my day-to-day activities. Now I just let my wife tell me what to do.

Methinks1776 December 13, 2011 at 4:16 pm

Finally gave in and turned yourself over to a higher being, eh? :)

Jon Murphy December 13, 2011 at 4:17 pm

Advantage #4 of being single :-P

Methinks1776 December 13, 2011 at 4:20 pm

What makes you think you have the advantage? Haven’t you seen “Jewtopia”?

Jon Murphy December 13, 2011 at 4:24 pm

Um…no? Do I want to see Jewtopia?

Methinks1776 December 13, 2011 at 4:38 pm

It’s hilarious. It’s a about two friends, one Jewish and the other one not. The guy who is not Jewish convinces his Jewish friend to help him find and marry a Jewish girl so that he doesn’t ever have to go to the trouble of making another decision for the rest of his life!

Jon Murphy December 13, 2011 at 4:45 pm

That looks amazing. I have to check it out.

Although, I gotta admit, I dated a Jewish girl for a little while. I had do decide everything, otherwise date night would have been the couch.

Methinks1776 December 13, 2011 at 4:57 pm

Did we date?

Jon Murphy December 13, 2011 at 5:00 pm

Unless you were in high school during the final Bush years, I doubt it.

Methinks1776 December 13, 2011 at 5:02 pm

kidding. I’m old enough to be your mother.

Josh S December 14, 2011 at 8:41 am

“1776″ isn’t part of her name because she likes the Declaration of independence…

Methinks1776 December 14, 2011 at 9:00 am

LMAO (and wiping coffee off my laptop), Josh! :) . Spot on!

kyle8 December 13, 2011 at 5:05 pm

If you take a long term view then it is not necessary to forecast prices.

When the market has fallen a lot you buy up companies that you think are a good investment. You hold them until the markets look like they are overheating. Then you sell.

I bought both stock and gold in the low point of 2008-2009. I have sold half of my gold and am still holding the stocks. I don’t bother trading. But I will buy something unusual that looks promising, For instance I bought 100 shares of Pandora when it went public, It has done fairly well.

The key is that any investment should be a long term investment.

Of course I am not preaching to you Methinks, You probably have forgotten more than I will ever know about investments. But I am just talking out loud.

Methinks1776 December 13, 2011 at 5:31 pm

You are sort of implicitly forecasting prices over a pretty long time horizen when you decide to trade – especially if one of your rules is to hold it for a long period of time. If you’re buying, you’re doing so because you think the price will go up and the reverse if you’re selling. In your case, you’re also making a bet on the direction of the market. Nothing wrong with that if you’re comfortable with it.

I don’t think I can accurately predict anything and I don’t like taking any more risk than I have to. So, I’m much more comfortable with arbitrage. What I bet on is relationships between securities.

Ray Lehmann December 13, 2011 at 11:54 am

@Krishnan It is perhaps worth noting here that Gray and Klotzbach are among the most high-profile global warming skeptics.

muirgeo December 13, 2011 at 1:21 pm

William Gray a long time climate change denier telling us that he can’t predict hurricaines is nothing new. No one said they could. Further, him admitting so does not make anthropogenic greenhouse warming go away.

SaulOhio December 13, 2011 at 1:23 pm

Something can’t go away if it didn’t exist in the first place.

GAAPrulesIFRSdrools December 13, 2011 at 1:34 pm

Reasonable people deny (the existence of) a great many things. Little green men, alchemy and AGW among them.

muirgeo December 13, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Denying the physical and photometric properties of the CO2 molecule and other greenhouse gases is NOT reasonable… it’s dumb as dirt.

SaulOhio December 13, 2011 at 3:15 pm

But nobody is denying any of that.

Don December 13, 2011 at 3:22 pm

The fact that you think that the “physical and photometric properties of CO2″ necessarily lead to AGW proves, beyond doubt, that you don’t understand AGW theory. Nobody who understands the science on YOUR side even says that, any more than nobody with any understand of the science on the other side says that man is not causing some warming.

Please go bash your strawmen elsewhere, the adults are trying to have a conversation.

muirgeo December 13, 2011 at 3:59 pm


When the web firsst came online I debated creationist. After it was clear that my position was supported by evidence and they didn’t care about evidence the debate became boring..even if evoutionis amazingly fascinating.

I wne through the same thing with climate science. I didn’t think climate change was a big deal compared to other environmental issues. So i learned all about it and became a mini-expert on climate… now people like you bore me just as the creationist do. You’ve got nothing but an ideology to protect just like them… an aversion to the real world… you bore the helll out of me… except as a case study in human cognition.

James N December 13, 2011 at 4:29 pm

“So i learned all about it and became a mini-expert on climate…” Best comedy line of the day!

Don December 13, 2011 at 4:43 pm

As I’ve said before, you’re self mocking.

“Mini-expert”? Really? Ok, so, Mr. Mini-Expert, please explain the forcings used in the models for temperature prediction. Where do they come from?

Also explain how a system with a positive feed-back loop and no known negative feedback loop (other than arisols) could possibly sustain itself.

Explain why the mezzocumulus clouds predicted by the models (every damned one of them) do not match natural observations.

I won’t ask you to explain why the vast majority of testable predictions to day have failed, that would be my “ideology” showing..

This ought to be good.

Oh, and “When the web first came online?” So, you work at CERN?

muirgeo December 13, 2011 at 5:23 pm

For your first question; The simplest measures of forcing or climate sensitivity are based on paleoclimatic data. The primary and secondary forcings are orbital shifts (Milankovitch cycles- eccentricity, axial tilt, and precession ), solar output, albedo, continental drift, ocean currents, aerosols, water vapor, cloud feedback and greenhouse gases.

Here’s the simple model. Increased GHG’s mostly CO2 result in about 4 watts of warming for every square meter of Earth.
( about 1.2 C increase in global temperature if all else is constant). The initial warming causes water to warm and evoparate and increases the 4 amount of water vapor in the atmosphere. Water is a strong short lived GHG that passively follows other forcings. because of cloud formation water vapor feedback is more difficult to calculte. But the original heating and the secondary heating from water vapor cause ice to melt. As ice melts the reflectivity of the Earth Surface goes down and more heat is added to the atmosphere. . Many other feedbacks follow but the big concern is with a state change. Paleoclimate evidence suggest tipping points can be reached which cause sudden dramatic changes in the state of the climate that could occur over decades and years dramatically effecting life on Earth and human societies by massively altering climate conditions. Ever mass extiction event was related to sudden climate changes except for the current one caused by humans and this one will likely also be accentuated by our climate warming activities.

It’s really not that complicated. It’s just that the very Inconveient Truth has huge implications for Free Market Nutters like yourself. Just like Darwin and Galileo’s findings had implications for the religious nutters…so best to deny the facts rather then having to deal with reality. Blame it all on a left wing conspiracy to cotrol the world…and castigate the intellectual elites as enemies of the state…. LOL

GAAPrulesIFRSdrools December 13, 2011 at 11:41 pm

Mini-Expert? Are we about to get shagged by Mini-me?

Josh S December 14, 2011 at 8:46 am

The positive feedbacks have never been demonstrated experimentally. Theories are validated by making and testing predictions. Climatologists like to claim that since it takes 30-50 years to verify any of their theories, they should be exempted from the normal scientific process, and besides, it will be too late to verify their models because climate change will have already ruined everything by the time they have the data.

It’s really not that complicated.

SaulOhio December 14, 2011 at 10:34 am

I used to debate against creationists, too, on Your debating tactics remind me much of theirs.

Don December 14, 2011 at 11:12 am


Thanks for the laundry list, but most of that list is NOT feedback, simply variables (and a number of them are variables that the AGW proponents tell us couldn’t possibly have anything to do with changes in temperature, like solar output and orbital shift).

But here is why you fail:
“It’s really not that complicated.”

If you took even this small list of variables into account (and I atleast hope you’d agree this isn’t even close to the list of actually variables in play), that would make the model so unbelievably complicated, you could never trust it’s output. Models become exponentially more complicated as you add variables. More over, the error rate also goes up exponentially with the error rate of those variables. When I hear somebody tell me it’s “really not that complicated,” I know that I’m speaking to somebody who has no awareness of how modeling works. Hell, meteriologists have been working on models for over 100 years, and they still only have a 60% chance of getting a 3-day forecast correct! And you want me to believe that predicting forecasts 100 years in the future for the entire planet is “really not that complicated?”

I could be convinced of aspects of AGW theory, but the first thing I have to see is evidence NOT based on some computer model (and that’s awful hard, when you consider that most of the researchers in this field have foolishly treated output of computer models as equivalent to observational data).

I’m also highly skeptical of the paleoclimate data, partly because of the selection method of the representative populations. E.g. the yurals used in parts of Siberia were selected due more to the clear differentiation of their data, than due to any other factor – when taken in context with similar research using larger populations in the same areas, the important data points become statistical noise and there is no significant trending. This has been known for some time, but to my knowledge (and I don’t make a habit of following this stuff, so I may be wrong) it has not been addressed by Briffa, et al in any meaningful way.

Paleo is also problematic in that the assumption that a fat tree ring means it’s warm and a narrow one means it’s cold is absolutely false. In fact research has shown that the size of tree rings has far more to do with rainfall rates than temperature, and that a “cold wet” year will have much larger ring growth than a “warm dry” year, where there is little difference between a “warm wet” and “warm dry” year. Temperature effects tree growth in more of a threshold manner, as any arborist can tell you.

And yes, I’m aware of the torturing of the definitions to try to tie “wet” to “warm”. I don’t recall, however, any empirical evidence that primarily warm years are wet and cold years are dry; feel free to point me to such evidence if you have a link handy.

These are just a few (and not even the strongest) reasons why I am seriously skeptical. My skepticism does not originate from my free-market principals in the least. Those may help determine how I would deal with it if/when I find something that changes my mind (and I AM open to information that could change my mind), but economics has nothing to do with AGW scientific evidence, or lack there of. I am perfectly capable of segmenting those two issues.

Josh S December 15, 2011 at 8:59 am

You don’t understand, Don. muirgeo votes for Democrats; that makes him an expert on science.

GAAPrulesIFRSdrools December 13, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Who’s doing that?

Jon Murphy December 13, 2011 at 3:48 pm

Don’t talking about Muirgeo’s strawman claim that climate change skeptics are denying the effects of CO2 on the atmosphere.

Jon Murphy December 13, 2011 at 3:48 pm

*Don’s talking about…

muirgeo December 13, 2011 at 4:21 pm

If they aren’t denying the properties of CO2 then they must have a good way of explaining how laying the equivalent of four 1 watt Christmas bulbs over the entire surface of the Earth will not warm it… I’d love to hear it… but now I’m bored already because I can just imagine every possible stupid answer they will give.

SmoledMan December 13, 2011 at 4:36 pm

Isn’t it funny how left-wingers support any and all policies that destroy free markets? AGW is just their latest tactic.

Don December 13, 2011 at 5:10 pm

That’s true of some, but there are people who come to their belief honestly (muirgeo, though, isn’t one of them). I just like tweeking the little twerp. I have an image of a 19 year old kid, sitting in his mom’s basement between his job at Geeksquad and Eglish Lit courses at the local community college, typing furiously about his “expertise” in AGW.

I can’t think of anything that could possibly be put on a person’s resume that would make me less likely to hire him than “AGW (mini)Expert”. I’m quite certain that “heroine quality control tester” would be a better professional reference.

Don December 13, 2011 at 5:10 pm

Errr… English (which I’m clearly not proficient at :^).

muirgeo December 13, 2011 at 5:35 pm

So Don are you going to explain to us how 4 mini Christmas lights over the whole surface of the earth somehow DOESN’T warm it?
Does the Invisible Hand God put a Hex on the CO2 molecules?

SmoledMan December 13, 2011 at 6:12 pm

Someone needs to bitchslap you freak.

Don December 14, 2011 at 11:30 am

You’re really amazingly silly.

First off, there’s no ADDITIONAL energy being injected onto the Earth’s surface, so you analogy of 4 christmas lights per sq. meter is just stupid.

Second what you are suggesting is that there is now, on average, 1004 Watts/sq.m. (I’m assuming you’re talking about 1 watt bulbs here), rather than 1000 Watts/sq.m. (the number typically used for solar energy calculations is 1KW/sq.m. average), or a .4% difference in energy (density) at the surface of the Earth. I seriously doubt that’s outside the margin of error. But let’s do some math:

1 centigrade heat unit (International Table) = 0.52752793 watt hour

So, 4 watts (I’m assuming that the hours cancel out when you calculate heat-loss-to-space) heating would raise the temperature by approximately 7 degrees C. Hmmmm… I think Dr. Mann might even call BS on that (but, I could be wrong about that ;^).

You really need to read more “sciency” stuff. 4 christmas lights?

GAAPrulesIFRSdrools December 13, 2011 at 11:41 pm

Green is the new red!!!!!!!!!

Josh S December 14, 2011 at 8:43 am

Yes, he did say he could predict hurricanes. He said so by, you know, publishing predictions.

Andrew_M_Garland December 13, 2011 at 2:13 pm

Why Economic Models Are Always Wrong
10/26/11 – Scientific American by David H. Freedman

Jonathan Carter investigated the process of fitting data to a model. He devised a model, assigned precise initial parameters, and generated perfect data. Then, he went backwards, using the perfect data to set the model’s parameters and see what it predicted. He found that even perfect data was not sufficient to produce a useful model going forward.

Researchers generally don’t know the parameters of a model they are considering, so they propose a model and use measured, imperfect data to set the parameters of the model, to “tune” the model. They decide if the model is correct by looking at what the tuned model predicts.

=== ===
[edited]  Carter had initially used arbitrary parameters in his perfect model to generate perfect data. To assess his model in a realistic way, he threw those parameters out and used standard calibration techniques to match his perfect model to his perfect data. It was supposed to be a formality. He assumed that this process would simply produce the same parameters that had been used to produce the data in the first place.

But it didn’t. It turned out that there were many different sets of parameters that seemed to fit the historical data, and that made sense. A mathematical expression with many terms and parameters in it has many different ways to add up to a single result. You would expect there to be different ways to set the parameters so that they produces similar sets of data over some limited time period.

The problem: Different parameters in the model might all match the historical data, but would generate different predictions going forward. Sure enough, his calibrated model produced terrible predictions compared to the “reality” originally generated by the perfect model.
=== ===

Sagittarius A December 13, 2011 at 3:57 pm

Okay, these results can stem from very simple multicollinearity or other factors that make the solutions to the equation systems non-unique.

But that’s why we come up with THEORIES before we fit data to models.

My professor in my first PhD Finance course was smart about it like that- every time we looked at someone’s regression results he would look at the parameter estimates and say “Well, these are a bit big/small, they imply that…” and put it in very frank, down-to-earth terms that made sense (or not) in practice. Or he’d ask “why is this negative”, “how can this be positive”? The conclusion: you THINK about the parameters and what they mean you don’t just “run the numbers”.

So I doubt any genuinely careful economist would just empiricize rampantly without considering whether his parameters make sense. The Freeman essay is something most of us are aware of and there are more important questions to consider.

Slappy McFee December 13, 2011 at 2:38 pm

Did you notice that the story in the Ottawa Citizen was in the ‘entertainment’ section?

Saxdrop December 13, 2011 at 3:15 pm

Now suppose hurricanes changed their behavior in response to predictions and ensuing policy choices. What do we think would happen to the accuracy of their models?

Should we expect a similar statement from the Council of Economic Advisers in twenty years?

Sagittarius A December 13, 2011 at 3:35 pm

None of this seems true at face value. It implies they are giving up on the project, which they are not doing. And I doubt any respectable scientist would quit something because it’s too hard. At most it sounds like they are realigning their work because they’ve learned and now want to better their venture.

Anyway, I really don’t see the value of all these direct and implied calls to stop trying to deal with complexity or to convince ourselves that we just can’t do very well at dealing with it. It’s not what we do, quitting. Mostly we just keep toiling, aware of the models’ imperfections, to better them. And we have done. Almost all sciences, INCLUDING ECONOMICS, has gotten better and better and better at forecasting and predicting.

My field is quantitative finance. People laugh. I tell them we know so much now about how asset prices behave. We do though. We know a lot more than most pundits will have you think. We won’t quit. We’ll keep learning and modeling and we’ll be better at it every day.

Jon Murphy December 13, 2011 at 3:40 pm

No one’s said they are quitting. What the post is about is identifying when a model doesn’t work and abandoning that model. I am sure the two forecasters are looking at new models, but in the mean time, they’re going to focus on the one(s) that work. This is the bettering of models that you are referring to. The hard part is recognizing when a model no longer works.

Sagittarius A December 13, 2011 at 3:44 pm

The first line though say they are “quitting the practice because it doesn’t work”. That’s the kind of simplification that doesn’t work and it is clearly aimed to imply with a smug look that these fancy models just ain’t right. Which is not right. What you said is right. What the article IMPLIES is wrong. And unhealthy. It amazes me, the extent to which people have enjoyed berating modeling and forecasting of complex systems in the past 4 years. Its en vogue. The cool thing to do. To be praised for.

Jon Murphy December 13, 2011 at 3:47 pm

I’ll agree with you that the article could have been better written. A little more specific, perhaps.

Methinks1776 December 13, 2011 at 4:56 pm

My fellow Sagittarius,

That’s not the impression I got at all. It makes sense that the longer the time horizon, the lower the predictive value of the model would be.

I think it’s the opposite, people are too confident about the predictive value of models of complex systems. This overconfidence in models led to huge losses in black-box trading systems in 2008 to name just one instance. We still model complex systems, but it helps to be very mindful of just how little we know, how biased we are and how poorly we tend to assess tail risk – particularly if someone is committing resources based on those models. In other words, we could use more humility.

Sagittarius A December 13, 2011 at 5:16 pm

Humility, yes. And we have learned from it all, like you and I both say we should. For example, fat tail models are ubiquitous these days, especially now that econophysicists are peddling their version of economics everywhere and to everyone.

But here is the thing. We weren’t overconfident. We just used the best models we had at the time. We had Poisson jump processes, non-stationarity, and other intricacies of reality in our models. We HAD that.

The black boxes didn’t fail. The INSTITUTIONS failed. I tell you this like I have everyone, though few have listened to me. We had a systematic institutional failure. People weren’t paying enough attention to the models! Not enough! Our models could show that most systems we modeled weren’t stable and were highly sensitive to small disutrbances. We knew about contagion too and about time-varying covariances. We knew about it all.

But no one listened. The institutions didn’t have failsafe mechanisms. No automatic stabilizers. Human nature prevailed. It prevailed over the black boxes. Humans failed us. Not the equations.

Methinks1776 December 13, 2011 at 5:39 pm

People weren’t paying enough attention to the models!

You’re exactly right.

GAAPrulesIFRSdrools December 14, 2011 at 12:06 am

Sagittarius, MeThinks:

“Humans failed us. Not the equations.”

People weren’t paying enough attention to the models!

People rarely ask if their behavior will fulfill an equation or stay within +/-3 std dev.

Maybe its time to junk the models, especially the ones that attempt to quantify risk. Too often people hear some [insert small percentage here] probability and assume risk is “virtually” eliminated, and forget that as long as there is exposure, there is risk-that the existence of risk is binary, its there or its not.

rhhardin December 13, 2011 at 5:56 pm

Any model with enough knobs can match all past data without having the slightest predictive value.

It’s really a case of self-delusion.

Something called a Kalman Filter would formalize fitting your model to past data, and make it obvious what you’re really doing when you use all those nifty physical intuitions instead of actual physics equations. The latter have no knobs. Unfortunately you can’t solve them.

muirgeo December 14, 2011 at 10:23 am

Anybody actually interested in the science of climate change can go to The American Geophysical Unions annual meeting site. The just finished their meeting here in San Francisco. You can see what their programs are like, what they are talking about and you can even watch most of the big lectures.

GAAPrulesIFRSdrools December 14, 2011 at 11:05 am

Its a religion, not science.

rhhardin December 14, 2011 at 1:47 pm

I remember an article in the JGR in the 70s, on the question of where big waves come from. The linear growth rate favors smaller waves, not bigger waves.

It speculated that it was maser action: smaller waves break preferentially in the wind at the peaks of larger waves, and transfer energy to the larger waves.

It did not speculate on what is to be done about big waves, about the big wave menace, about funding for future big wave research.

It just showed where a little curiosity went.

The test of science is curiosity, not the trappings of authority.

Compare the program book.

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