This is a minor posting, just a bit of a pet peeve. It’s the use of the word “forcing” in “Climate Science” to mean “causes to happen”. I have several issues with this usage.
First, though, a minor housekeeping note: The last couple of days I’ve had “Yo Yo DSL” and as of now I’ve just shut it off. (Starbucks is your friend ;-)
This only impacts my access, it does nothing to WordPress. However: If you only see me popping in from time to time and if postings seem a bit more “sporadic” for a couple of days, you will know it’s because I’m trying to regain the service I’ve paid to get… Oh, the joys of AT&T Tech Support…
For the terminally curious: Yes, AT&T is my provider. They own the wires here and no matter from whom you buy the service, it’s AT&T that provides the wires. I have my own modem/router and nothing in the config has changed. I’ve seen this before with AT&T. It just starts dropping speed, then starts going up and down and up and down and up and down…. Then, usually about a day later, it’s ‘all better’. This time, not so much.
I’m leaving my side down for 24 hours in the hope that someone else gets the sick port and when I bring it back up I’ll get a new port and a new IP. We’ll see. I’ve had that work before, and it’s quicker than calling AT&T and getting to someone cluefull most of the time…
For most of my life there was a perfectly good word used to me “Pushes things that way and helps to make it happen.” That word was “driving” or “drives”. As in “The Sun is the driver of ocean heating that drives hurricane formation. There is no need for the neologism of “forcing”.
So why do we have it? It’s a propaganda tool. “Driving” is not as strong a word as “forcing”. The very reasons that make “driving” the correct choice are the reasons it fails as a political and propaganda tool.
Driving weather events, much like driving cattle, has a certain element of chance to it. Things may, or may not, go directly where you tell them to go. “Force” on the other hand, implies There Is No Choice And No Doubt. Police “force a door open”. The IRS forces you to pay taxes. An unstoppable force runs into things, and they are flattened. Drive a herd of cattle and you have some mavericks. Drive a new product launch, and you may yet have a flop. Have the sun drive a hurricane and, well, some of them just end up tropical storms.
The correct and proper term for CO2 is “driver”. In fact, if someone said “CO2 drives warming”, I’d likely agree with them. It well might. There is nothing about a ‘driver’ that says “how much”, nothing that says “dominant”, and nothing that even says “will win the race with all the other drivers”. But FORCING, well, that’s not to be doubted. A “forced” door IS open. An attack in force, did attack. And a rape is forced sex, not just a dinner and bar bill followed by a polite “Oh, look how late it is…” So, if something is ‘forcing’ it is not subject to skepticism or doubt.
Force has a perfectly good meaning. A change of speed, direction, or shape comes out of application of a force. Force = mass x acceleration. The change of momentum over time. There is no temperature, no IR emissions spectrum, no warming or cooling implied in change of momentum.
To use “forcing” for infrared absorption spectra, or for change of temperature is to be very sloppy with your physics. It is, in a word, incompetent. A person who does so needs to start over again, with Newton, and work their way back up through freshman physics. No, I do not consider that point “negotiable”. The term ‘forcing’ is only used in the context of describing the expected behaviour of physical systems. That is physics. That means using the jargon of physics. And that jargon defines force as “F=ma”. There is no doubt. “Forcing” must mean “ma-ing”, not “well, I think the ocean may change how warm it is in the top 10 cm on a good day in the Gulf while cooling in the Arctic” nor “the troposphere will get a hot spot while the stratosphere cools” nor any other clap trap.
Forcing is Sloppy
Is a climate forcing in Watts? Watts / hour? Watts / meter? Watts / meter^2? Watts / meter^2 / hour? Joules? Degrees per second? Degrees / m^2 / second? Or perhaps it is in Calories or Calories / second or who knows what. Maybe it’s “Ice Tons / year melting” or “wind miles / hour” or “tons of rain / acre”?
It is a physically meaningless term whose units are at best guesswork, always vague, and completely untrustworthy. There is no S.I. unit of “forcing” nor any English or American Standards Institute unit of “forcing”. If it can be anything, then it is nothing.
You can’t ‘keep a tidy mind’ and have the equations work out right when one of the key steps is a dimensionless property with no physical definition.
So why not give it one?
Well, perhaps because there are already perfectly fine terms for all the real physical properties. If someone means Watts/hour, then they ought to say that as we all agree on what it means.
As it stands, the use of “forcing” is just shorthand for: I’m too lazy to work out what really happens in the physics, or I think you are too lazy to follow me, so, just assume “Magic Happens” and I’m right.
That, to me, is very unacceptable.
It is at best sloppy, at worst lying with propaganda. In between lies sheer incompetence. I do not want to be anywhere on that spectrum.
There are some more minor issues I could raise, and I may well do so in comments as time permits. These, though, are the major points. But if those are not enough for you, consider this last point:
Whenever I hear the word “forcing” I assume the person likely has poor grasp of physics, has mediocre language skills, and is subject to belief in propaganda. I also expect they will have an ‘un-tidy mind’ and and are sloppy with their logic. If they really just mean “causes to happen” then they ought to say so, and doing otherwise means they are not clear in their thinking and like using flowery excessive bafflegab.
I’ve seen the same sentiment expressed by other folks. Often those with the most physics background and the best reasoning skills.