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The Right Climate Stuff

I don't think a group called "The Right Climate Stuff" (TRCS) has been mentioned previously in this forum. They are a bunch of retired NASA employees who banded together in 2013 to review the work of mainstream climate scientists and have also attempted to model the climate themselves using a simplified 'old school' style of computer model based on their experience of designing spacecraft. The group's website is here:

TRCS

This extract from the main webpage gives a pretty good summary:

"The phrase "Climate Change", currently used by politicians and popular media, has been a politically driven evolutionary change from the more specific scientific phrase "Anthropogenic (Human-Caused) Global Warming" (AGW).

The phrase has become political shorthand for the theorized worst case effects of the increasing atmospheric CO2 and other Greenhouse Gas (GHG) levels during the Industrial Age, believed to be caused primarily from the use of fossil fuels to provide the energy for the industrialized world. These GHG concentrations in our atmosphere (other than the strong naturally occurring GHG provided by water vapor) will always be at trace gas levels, though much less than at previous times of our planet. The theorized worst case effects are predicted by un-validated climate simulation models whose alarming projections have not been supported by the actual data observed so far.

We, a group of retired and highly experienced engineers and scientists from the Apollo, Skylab, Space Shuttle and International Space Station eras, have volunteered our time and effort conducting an objective, independent assessment of the AGW alarm and reality of the actual threat. We have reviewed hundreds of reports and technical papers relevant to the subject matter, and discussed key issues with experts on both sides of this controversy.

During our pioneering years in the US manned space program, scientific controversy over complex technical issues was commonplace at numerous times when NASA needed to make critical spacecraft design and operational decisions affecting safety of astronauts. We have unique skills and experience in problem identification, specification, root cause analysis and rational decision-making applicable to public policy decisions related to the AGW concern.

To aid in monitoring the AGW concern, we have developed our own simple, but rigorous, earth surface temperature model using Conservation of Energy principles, similar to the way we analyze surface and internal temperature of spacecraft. We have validated the model with 165 years of atmospheric GHG data and data on earth surface temperature variations. We have used this model to forecast what we believe will be the maximum, but small and non-harmful effects on earth surface temperature, from continued un-restricted use of fossil fuels, until they become too scarce and costly to meet the growing energy demand of our planet.

We expect a world-wide, market-driven transition to alternate sources of energy generation will be completed by 2150, leaving less than 600 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere, 50 percent more than current levels. Highest levels of CO2 in our atmosphere have exceeded 7000 ppm from greater volcanic activity more than 400 million years ago. Naturally occurring planetary processes reduced atmospheric CO2 levels to a low of about 180 ppm experienced at the last Ice Age glacial maximum about 21,000 years ago. This was dangerously close to the critical 150 ppm limit required for green plants to grow.

We have produced reports which, in our judgment, provide a more realistic projection of the maximum expected earth surface temperature rise over the next 150 years from rising atmospheric GHG levels. We believe that these more realistic projections do not justify the extent to which the UN and others propose to manipulate and likely devastate the various major economies of the world through mandating drastic reductions in the use of fossil fuels."


There is also a recent video presenting a lecture on the simple TRCS Climate Model on this link (about 68 minutes in length, a bit tedious to watch and would be better if they had a highlights video):

Video on TRCS model

The simple model gives a pretty good reproduction of the observed global average surface temperature versus time since 1850. Unlike mainstream climate modellers, they don't attempt to model the prevalent 'noise' in the temperature versus time graph. The predicted maximum temperature rise is 1.2 deg C from today's value by about 2150 (the middle of the 22nd century), with CO2 levels peaking around the same time at 600ppm.

One issue this group points out that you don't hear from mainstream climate scientists is that the CO2 level in the last Ice Age dropped to a level not that much above what might be regarded as an extinction level of CO2 of 150 ppm at which most vegetation stops growing. So Ice Ages appear to be a problem that the whole world should be concerned about, they are not just a problem for high latitude countries.

It looks like TRCS has a certain amount of political influence in the USA as discussions between the group and the Trump transition team are mentioned in the video. I remember there was an interview Trump gave a few months ago where he indicated that he thought CO2 levels had some influence on global warming, and left-liberal journalists seized on this as an indicator of a climbdown where he might not overturn the Obama administration's climate policy, but Trump's perception of the CO2 influence on global temperature is I think more likely to tie up with the TRCS view than the mainstream climate science view.

Re: The Right Climate Stuff

The different styles of computer modelling used by "The Right Climate Stuff" (TRCS) group and the mainstream climate scientists reminds me of a conversation I once had with a manager when I was working in the UK nuclear industry back in about 1997. This manager had been the head of the department I had worked in for many years, but he then got moved sideways to make way for somebody else who was being 'fast-tracked', and he was given a job as something like a techical manager responsible for maintaining technical standards. The department did a lot of computer modelling, and this manager remarked to me that in all the candidates that were currently applying for jobs with the department, he was no longer seeing anybody in interviews who he would describe as being 'mathematical modellers' - they were all what he would describe as 'geometric modellers'. He thought that the traditional style of computer modelling, mathematical modelling, was on the way out, and did not regard that as being a desirable trend.

To provide some definitions of what I think this manager was talking about:

'Mathematical modellers' would be people who generally like to keep the computer model as simple as possible. Some of this desire to keep things simple originated from entering the world of computing at a time when computers were very slow, had little RAM (even though old mainframe computers filled a room, they had little RAM), and were tricky to use (input files might have to be entered using a deck of punched computer cards for example). These people tended to be good at maths, and did lots of background reading and checked up in the literature on how similar problems had been tackled in the past. They were also pretty keen on validation of computer models, partly to justify the use of simplified models.

'Geometric modellers' would be people who literally model the geometry, whatever the geometry is they chop it up into a detailed model of finite elements or grid cells. These people became more prevalent in the computer modelling field as computers got faster, had more RAM and became easier to use, though you did still get a few geometric modellers even back in the 1970s. These people tended to be quite mediocre at maths in comparison with the mathematical modellers, and were too busy sitting at a computer terminal to do any reading. They were less keen on validation, as they regarded that as being more the software developer's problem than theirs.

I can see some advantages in employing geometric modellers over mathematical modellers. One is that the geometric modellers tended to be more 'computer literate', they had often grown up with computers and liked playing around with them, whereas the mathematical modellers would tend to be less up-to-date with the computing world and a few even actively disliked computers. Another is that the geometric modellers' work would look a lot more professional, as they were able to produce all sorts of fancy countour-filled plots of results and animations of results. Project management type people also seemed to prefer the geometric modellers, because their style of computer modelling looked better from the point of view of reporting progress. Mathematical modellers might try out an idea and then throw it away if it didn't work, which looked terrible from a project management viewpoint.

Disadvantages of employing geometric modellers over mathematical modellers would be that computer modelling projects would generally tend to be more expensive, and there might be a greater probability of there being some overlooked 'howler' sitting somewhere in the analysis.

In terms of applying this terminology to climate modelling, the mainstream climate modellers would be geometric modellers. Even the veterans in climate modelling, like the now retired James Hansen, are geometric modellers. The ex-NASA people making up the TRCS group, are by contrast mathematical modellers.

Re: The Right Climate Stuff

Very interesting Dave. A few days ago, I was reading a 2005 IEEE Spectrum article on Apollo 13. (IEEE is my professional engineering organization.)

apollo-13-we-have-a-solution

It seems that a year before Apollo 13 during a runup to Apollo 10, they simulated a similar problem. For grins, they gave the LEM controllers the problem of powering the LEM with a double fuel cell failure. They couldn't figure it out, and the (simulated) astronauts died.

To power the LEM you need power from the Command Module and ultimately from the Command Service Module. That allows power to relays that give the LEM its power. Without power to those relays, you can't turn on any of the LEM equipment. There are workarounds, but the controllers couldn't figure them out in real time.

Afterwards, NASA told the controllers to ignore the problem as a double fuel cell failure would never happen. However, the controllers were not deterred and worked on a procedure to accomplish the switch-over. Their procedure took about 30 minutes, and they put it on the shelf. It wasn't an official NASA procedure.

When Apollo 13 lost both fuel cells, it was that procedure the LEM controllers pulled off the shelf. They also managed to cut the checklist down to 15 minutes.

Without that previous work, the Apollo 13 astronauts would have died. Those NASA Apollo controllers were the "Right Stuff!"

Jim