Bet The World on Secret Black Boxes

We frequently see various reports of this or that General Circulation Model (GCM) or the “ensemble mean” of several of them (the average of a bunch instead of just one) showing the earth is going to heat up and it’s the end of life as we know it.

They are the backbone of the IPCC / ARx reports fear mongering.

Recently, several folks have pointed out that actual temperatures are now well outside the 95% confidence interval of many of the models, and the “ensemble mean”, and that statistically there has been no warming for, variously, 12 years to 16 years (depending on the model and the “statistical significance” test used).

In short, the major driver of climate panic, The Models, are no longer giving results that match reality.

Yet they are being used to herd public opinion and lawmakers into the pen of Carbon Credits, high Energy Taxes, reduced quality of life (via higher prices and taxes for fewer goods), and generally force feed the world a Watermelon Green Agenda. Despite having no skill at predicting our present decade and a half of no warming. (And, for those of you under snow on this ‘start of summer’, it’s a bit less than “no warming”…)

So while the discussion mutates from Global Warming through various other “rebranding” events to now “Extreme Climate” and “Climate Chaos” (still trying to find a name to scare folks enough, while not being obviously out of touch with reality as “warming” has become); we are treated ever more to “model results”.

OK, so what’s inside these things? I ponder.

I set off to download the models and look under the hood.

No Can Do.

The One

I did find one model that you can download. So I have. GISS “ModelE” (that presently comes in 3 flavors and a dozen snapshots… it would seem it is a ‘work in progress’ at the moment… Including a ‘special’ one for AR5…)

It has an online manual and an archive of the version used for AR4:

So I find myself in the odd position of saying: Kudoes to GISS for making their source code available. Good on you.

As it seems I have a “choice of one”, it is their Model E that I’ll be taking a look at. It is in FORTRAN (which I have installed here already) and I’m comfortable with FORTRAN.

More information about it here:

I don’t know that I’ll do more than just unpack it, see if it compiles, and maybe spot check some parts of the code. I expect that the major issues will not be implementation, but assumptions. Building into the model an assumption that CO2 is the big driver, and leaving out things like clouds, lunar / tidal ocean cycles, etc. The disconnect from reality more than the manner in which it is coded. So don’t expect a whole lot from me on it.

The description particularly points out that the parallelized parts expect shared memory, not a Beowulf style MIMD machine (Multiple Instructions Multiple Data). As I don’t have a MISD (Multiple Instruction Single Data) supercomputer available, I’m unlikely to try running the model on a single CPU dinky box. Also, as MIMD is what I like building at home, I’m unlikely to be all that enthused about exploring DIY MISD (and don’t have the $Millions for a SISD or SIMD box; i.e. a giant single CPU).

So mostly I expect to just do a vague overview, attempt to compile, and maybe try running one or two parts of it. Likely on the Raspberry Pi, just to see how much it can handle.

The Other

The page also says:

IPSL-CM4 (Institut Pierre Simon Laplace, France). Here we hit the jackpot: open web access to the subversion repository and Trac database.

I looked around a bit, but the source code didn’t stand out. I presume it just takes more than 2 minutes to find it; and I’ll go back to look again after dinner.

So likely some Kudoes to the French as well. Just not a ‘done deal’ yet.

The Black Box Mob

I ran into an interesting page that did my work for me. It looks at what models exist, and what is the status of the download / source available.

As they have already done the work, I see no reason to do more than quote them and point to them. The Author seems a nice fellow, from other articles on the site. There are other interesting articles, like a pointer to his presentation on moderating climate blogs; and a history of climate models video (that I’ve not watched yet – but the reviews were nice).

This is from 2009, and at the end points to a RealClimate link that claims to list more. Having been abused at RealClimate for asking simple questions (when first just finding out about “Global Warming” and having simple real questions, I was insulted and shunned and had innocent questions deleted. But they DID accuse me of being influenced by Wattsupwiththat, and that was the first I ever heard of them… so RealClimate must be credited with sending me there to get polite answers… that had a lot fewer “loose ends”…) I don’t know that I can stomach another visit to RealClimate, so that will have to wait… I doubt things have changed all that much in the last couple of years.

NCAR shows as available “if you register”. I’ve left it in with the Mob as I’m not so interested in registering. Registration usually comes with strings / tracking things.

24. June 2009 · 9 comments · Categories: climate modeling, climate science

First, we have to be clear what we mean by a climate model. Wikipedia offers a quick intro to types of climate model. For example:

zero dimension models, essentially just a set of equations for the earth’s radiation balance

1-dimensional models – for example where you take latitude into account, as the angle of the sun’s rays matter)

EMICS – earth-system models of intermediate complexity

GCMs – General Circulation Models (a.k.a Global Climate Models), which model the atmosphere in four dimensions (3D+time), by dividing it into a grid of cubes, and solving the equations of fluid motion for each cube at each time step. While the core of a GCM is usually the atmosphere model, GCMs can be coupled to three dimensional ocean models, or run uncoupled, so that you can have A-GCMs (atmosphere only), and AO-GCMs (atmosphere and ocean). Ocean models are just called ocean models :-)

Earth System Models – Take a GCM, and couple it to models of other earth system processes: sea ice, land ice, atmospheric chemistry, the carbon cycle, human activities such as energy consumption and economics, and so on.

Current research tends to focus on Earth System Models, but for the last round of the IPCC assessment, AO-GCMs were used to generate most of the forecast runs. Here are the 23 AO-GCMs used in the IPCC AR4 assessment, with whatever info I could find about availability of each model :

BCC-CM1 (Beijing Climate Center, China). The only mention of source code I can find is a link to an email address for the atmosphere model. I’ll fire off a message (Response: “it’s not ready for release yet”).

BCCR-BCM 2.0 (Bjerknes Centre, Norway). I can’t find any info about the model in the BCCR website, but I did find a 2003 paper describing the development of the model.

CCSM3 (NCAR, USA). Model source code is available for download, if you register.

CGCM3 (Canadian Centre for Climate Modeling and Analysis, Canada). Source code not publicly available.

CNRM-CM3 (Meteo-France). Not much information on the GCM, but the source code for the NEMO ocean model is available if you register.

CSIRO-MK3.0 (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Australia). Can’t find any info about the model at CSIRO’s website, apart from this report on the model development. [update: The MK3.0 isn’t publicly available, but a lower resolution version, the Mk3L is – see comments below]

ECHAM5/MPI-OM (Max Planck Institute, Germany). The source code for the models is available if you sign the licence agreement.

ECHO-G (University of Bonn, Germany and Korea Meteorological Administration, Korea). Here’s a technical report describing ECHO-G, but I can’t find much else.

FGOALS-g1.0 (LASG/Institute of Atmospheric Physics, China). Not sure about availability, as most of the documentation is in Chinese.

GFDL-CM2.x (GFDL, USA). Source code for AM2.1 (atmosphere only) is available if you register, as is the MOM ocean model.

GISS-AOM, EH, and ER (NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, USA). Source code for various configurations of GISS-AOM is available. You can also browse the source code for the latest model, ModelE, either using the f90toHTML tool, or directly in its repository.

INM-CM3.0 (Institute for Numerical Mathematics, Russia). Can’t find much about this model at all.

MIROC3.2 (U Tokyo and JAMSTEC, Japan). I found documentation for MIROC, but not much else.

MRI-CGCM2 (Meteorological Research Institute, Japan). No info about model availability.

PCM (NCAR, USA). Unlike the CCSM above, the code for PCM doesn’t appear to be available.

UKMO-HadCM3 and HadGEM1 (Met Office Hadley Centre, UK). Last, but definitely not least. The Met Office models are built from a shared code base, known as the Unified Model. Documentation is available, but the source code is only distributed to collaborators under a restricted licence.

Now, if you were paying attention, you’ll have noticed that that wasn’t 23 bullet points. Some labs contributed runs from more than one version of their model(s), so it does add up somehow.

Short summary: easiest source code to access: (1) IPSL (includes Trac access!), (2) CCSM and (3) ModelE.

Future work: take a look at the additional models that took part in the Coupled Model Inter-comparison Project (CMIP-3), and see if any of them are also available.

The original text is full of live links to the various “providers”. But since they mostly (except for The One of GISS Model E, and the other from France) are made of “unobtanium”, and not available to the un-indoctrinated and un-washed; I’m not seeing much use in the links. If you want to go exploring, hit the article and pick up the links there.

In Conclusion

It sure looks to me like we have a collection of Black Boxes, guarded by a Priesthood, and being used to drive policy and the people. Last time I looked, our form of government did not include the Branch Of Government of “Black Boxes”…

I can make computer code print out anything you like. It’s not hard. Without any independent and PUBLIC code review; we have no idea what the models do. I suppose I could head down the whole FOIA route, but I’m not a lawyer, and can’t afford one. I have to make a living, and this is just an unpaid public service on my part, at this point.

Will inspection of ONE of the models be ‘enough’? Can we play “Bet The World” on a sample of one, out of dozens? Can we trust that these models have any use when they have now got a dozen years history of being wrong and present temperatures are outside of the statistical confidence level? Can we afford to play “Bet The World” on a collection of secret black boxes?

My opinion is “No.”. That’s why I decided to take a look “under the hood”. The “Harry Read Me File” gave us all a pretty good clue that generally the code quality was not very good at UEA, and not very robust, and certainly not well maintained nor archived. Does that extend to the models? Most likely. Organizations have a ‘style’ that tends to be pervasive. Furthermore, the FOIA-2011 / Climategate emails showed clearly that the participants were quite happy to use sub-ethical means to advance a political agenda. (Blackmail of journal editors and suppression of dissenting articles, for example.) So absent the code to look at, all I can look at is the surrounding context. Thanks to HarryReadMe and FOIA-2011, we know that context; and it does not inspire confidence nor trust.

So IMHO, the only prudent thing is to ignore the models. In court, the question “What would a prudent man do?” forms the Prudent Man Standard for reasonable decision making. Given the context of known poor code quality in other work products from the climate schools, the deception on FOIA requests, the thwarting / manipulation of peer review, etc… A Prudent Man can only conclude that the source code is hidden as they have something to hide. So the entire package must be rejected in any claim of “proof” or policy making.

Take the AR4 or AR5, remove the models, and what is left?

Not a whole lot…

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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12 Responses to Bet The World on Secret Black Boxes

  1. BobN says:

    A good course of action might be to contact the ACLJ, they might take the ball and run with it, they are always filing FOIA on things.
    I would also send a note to Rand Paul, he seems to have an ongoing battle with the environmentalists and just might do something.

    It just continues to amaze me how the Global warming stories continue to be spewed out in reputable magazines and blogs.Most people don’t look at the data, just role with the crowd.

  2. The problem with all those black boxes is that they are based on the Arrhenius theory (1896) that says:
    “The selective absorption of the atmosphere is……………..not exerted by the chief mass of the air, but in a high degree by aqueous vapor and carbonic acid, which are present in the air in small quantities.”

    The theory is false so any model based on it is bound to fail. Garbage in…garbage out.

  3. Petrossa says:

    From what i understood is that the fortran model is a homebrew amateur mess. Good luck with that.

  4. Zeke says:

    “Likely on the Raspberry Pi, just to see how much it can handle.”

    It is customary to name the super computers after a god or goddess, such as Titan or Hestia. The Krakken is already taken. So you will need a name for yours if this compiles. Have you thought about something small enough? How about Raspberry HoHo? Or Twinkie? (:

  5. R. de Haan says:

    Take the AR4 or AR5, remove the models, and what is left?

    Not a whole lot…”

    You are 100% right of course but what’s more important is that the data is used by our political overlords to justify their policies. Read Climate Change, the juggernaut rolls on:
    “This is the intellectual equivalent of the herpes virus – the only sure way of destroying it is to destroy the host. And, before we can rid ourselves of it, that is what we will have to do”.

  6. Gail Combs says:

    The BIG LIE used in making CO2 the ‘Control Knob” of climate is calling the combined forcing of CO2 plus H2O just CO2.

    Water is an extremely important and also complicated greenhouse gas. Without the role of water vapor as a greenhouse gas, the earth would be uninhabitable. Water is not a driver or forcing in anthropogenic warming, however. Rather it is a feedback….

    This is why water is not listed as a forcing by the IPCC.

    And even then they lie about water

    ….My review mainly concerns the role of water vapor, a key component of global climate models. A special concern is that a new paper on a major global water vapor study (NVAP-M) needs to be cited in the final draft of AR5.

    This study shows no up or down trend in global water vapor, a finding of major significance that differs with studies cited in AR5. Climate modelers assume that water vapor, the principle greenhouse gas, will increase with carbon dioxide, but the NVAP-M study shows this has not occurred. Carbon dioxide has continued to increase, but global water vapor has not….

    … links to the official IPCC spreadsheet version and a Word version of my review are now posted near the top of my homepage at…...
    A relevant passage from the AR5 review by Mimms (added by Anthony):

    The obvious concern to this reviewer, who has measured total column water vapor for 22.5 years, is the absence of any mention of the 2012 NVAP-M paper. This paper concludes,

    “Therefore, at this time, we can neither prove nor disprove a robust trend in the global water vapor data.”

    Non-specialist readers must be made aware of this finding and that it is at odds with some earlier papers. Many cited papers in AR5 have yet to be published, but the first NVAP-M paper was published earlier this year (after the FOD reviews) and is definitely worthy of citation: Thomas H. Vonder Haar, Janice L. Bytheway and John M. Forsythe. Weather and climate analyses using improved global water vapor observations. GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 39, L15802, 6 PP., 2012. doi:10.1029/2012GL052094.

  7. E.M.Smith says:


    Perhaps Momotaro…

    Midget Hero God known as ‘The Little Peachling’ or ‘Small Renown Man’.

    He was born from a peach found floating down a stream by a childless couple. This tiny foster God grew up to be a real toughie of a Tom Thumb, and got together a gang of a dog, a pheasant and a monkey to rescue maidens from demons.

    With the R.Pi as the “peach”, the random folks buying R.Pis as the “couple”, and a “toughie Tom Thumb” with his gang (everyone applying it to the model problem…) of misc. sorts rescuing the maiden (normal folks lined up for the Green Picking of pockets) from demons (The Gang / UN / Soros / etc. etc.)

    I could see me as a “monkey” of sorts – code monkey – in the “gang” ;-)

    So if I get it going, perhaps I’ll call a cluster of these things Momotaro…


    I expect it will resemble GIStemp in “style”… with various layers added by different grad students over the years; some in F77, some in g90 to g95 syntax… and likely with a few modules of unknown ancestry grafted on in strange places…

    If so, “I’m good with that”… I’ve dealt with worse…


    We’ll see how it goes with the first one or two (that are available) before figuring out how to get more code (since I’m already swamped… being more swamped would not bring much benefit…)

    But if others wanted to take a whack at it…


    Yup. “The Big Stupid” of computer models is that they need have no relationship to reality and can produce any result desired, even non-physical and logic-impossible.

    It’s important to remember that Star Wars and all sorts of manner of non-physical Special Effects are produced via computer models. Think of the movie Avatar. They worked very hard to get some ‘reality’ into it (via a variety of special purpose hardware and software), but that does not make a world of blue giants with tails any more real.

  8. adolfogiurfa says:

    @Gail Combs: And nobody takes into account that every time there is a “shower” of protons from the Sun, the Earth is receiving its outsourced delivery of Water. Check protons last days.

  9. punmaster says:


    . . . spewed out in reputable magazines and blogs.

    I think you mean widely read. Reputable suggests a bent toward the truth. ;-)

  10. BobN says:

    @punmaster – Indeed, wide read!

  11. Zeke says:

    Momotaro is a fine idea for a moniker. I did not think you could find a divinity small enough to name a $20 computer component after, so I went straight down to pastries. (:

    Now for cooling a super computer you need to house it at a beautiful ranch in Montana, with a supporting coal fired plant, or maybe in the Swiss Alps or in Sweden. How are you planning on cooling your computer model? I shall have to make a donation for a R.Pi and a pack of those drink umbrellas.

  12. Gary says:

    Well, I am an air chemist who uses a wide variety of those demonic things some call models. yes they make great bracketed random number generators. So why do I waste my time on them? To ‘know it alls’ the answer is, they make me think. They provide focus to a damned messy field. They are a tool. One cannot take them in their entirety to be truth, they just indicate some things better than flipping a coin when planning. You run things hundreds of different ways, systematically, if nothing makes sense, or the predictions are found to be bogus – that’s good – you learned something. Maybe even how to fix the model. When decades of scientits effort are used to construct a GCM, it is a bit of a scientific or sceptic’s ‘wet dream’ to think that like jenga you find something that brings it all down. It ain’t gonna happen – the model will not be rendered false in its entirety you Popperians. Only a piece of rot will be found and we then perform surgery and correct it and somebody (or these days a ‘team’) gets a good reference. I will not argue about public policy – for both sceptics and non-sceptics the ideas have to get converted to ‘cartoons’ or manga because the public has difficulty seeing beyond their smartphone apps or their game CGI. But then game maker Corps with a firm goal of simulating reality might be a better place for scientists to work in a decade or so – you get a better salary and who knows somebody might even notice your work – I can live with that.

    As far as arguments about code – the black boxes are not not black – doctors have a different opinion about what they are seeing when looking at entrails used to tell the future then some priests(esses).

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