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Debating How to Debate Severe Weather

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorOctober 27, 2011 8:32 AM


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The Planet 3.0 post I was praising the other day has generated an interesting thread, especially this exchange, which starts with a great question from one commenter:

Can I ask, particularly of those who are professionally immersed in this, does the difficulty in talking about extreme events stem from a genuine lack of knowledge and understanding about the science or is it predominantly an issue of articulation, the problem of parcelling up the concepts into language, perhaps for ourselves as much as for others? I know this is to some extent a false dichotomy and maybe the better question to ask would be "˜to what extent does the way in which we attempt to parcel up our understanding of the science into language impact on that understanding?'

William Connolley responds:

The problem is that extreme events, being extreme, don't fit statistical analysis well. So if you look at, say, simple global surface T, you can do statistical analysis to show that yes, it is increasing and yes, it is significant. Doing the same with extreme events is much harder. One argument (which I'd push) is that the correct response is not to use the extreme events. We don't need them to demonstrate GW. But people do like to use them for "oh look how bad it will be".

I really admire the way the conversation is taking place over there. It's unreasonable to expect every thread to shine. But so far, so good! Those who feel they can constructively contribute to this discussion should participate in that thread.

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