Earth System Science and Simulation

Beautiful Minds: James Lovelock and Narrative

  • hollywood narrative struture
    • inciting incident/hook
    • act 1
      • introduction of story/plot
      • -> plot point one/turning point
    • act 2
      • development of story/plot and complications
      • midpoint
      • -> plot point two/turning point
    • act 3
      • conclusion of story/plot
      • possible twist
  • narrative theme
    • lone genius/maverick fighting establishment
  • in Beautiful Minds: James Lovelock two narrative arcs/chronologies interweave then join about 1/2 way
    • 1. inventions
      • min 7 electron capture detector and DDT
      • min 15 measures cfc, takes down aerosol industry
      • min 32 gaia hypothesis
      • min 40 support for hypothesis/ algae feedback
        • little acknowledgement of hypothesis
      • min 42 publishes the book Gaia
      • min 46 attacks on gaia, Doolittle, Dawkins etc.
      • min 48 defense of gaia/daisy world
      • min 45 vindicated/accepted by science establishment
      • min 54 dire predictions of consequences of man-made climate change
    • 2. personal history as flashback re-enactments
      • min 9 xmas present electronics
      • min 20, chooses chemistry because of of dyslexia
      • min 21 war experience,
      • min 25 Nasa
      • min 35 wins general knowledge quiz/bullied for winning (freak)
  • narrative struture mapped to Beautiful Minds: James Lovelock
    • inciting incident/hook  (“didn’t know I would be controversial“)
    • act 1
      • introduction of story/plot
        • earlier inventions (electron capture detector, cfc measurement)
        • flashbacks to childhood, triumphs and difficulties
        • war years
      • -> plot point one (goes to NASA)
    • act 2
      • development of story/plot, ups and downs and complications
        • challenges and absurdities at Nasa
      • midpoint (develops gaia hypothesis)
        • flashback to establishement bullying at school
        • establishment bullying on gaia
        • defense from all the wrong people (!)
      • -> plot point two (daisy world, scientific defense)
    • act 3
      • conclusion of story/plot
        • Accepted by establishment -> earth system science NOT gaia
        • Lovelock’s dire predictions about climate change
      • possible twist – maybe we can dismiss his pessimism because he is a bit way out


earth system model: GFDL/NOAA

What is a Climate Model?

  • mathematical representations of interactions between atmosphere, land surface, ocean surface, ice and the sun
  • models tested against past – “If a model can correctly predict trends from a starting point somewhere in the past, we could expect it to predict with reasonable certainty what might happen in the future.” skeptical science
  • Gavin Schmidt – The emerging patterns of climate change. 12 mins
    • Schmidt is a climate scientist at Columbia University’s Earth Institute and Deputy Chief at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
    • note: models are always inaccurate because they contain abstractions
    • note: nevertheless, they might skilfully predict events and that can be shown by testing them against the past
    • note: supercomputers are needed to crunch the data on complex models
    • mathematical models are visualized so we can see patterns more clearly
      • this step also includes choices, how things are colored, represented, the timing etc

Bertin’s Visual Variables

  • Media visualizations
    • numbers turned into computer graphics
      • resolution of data
        • number of samples, how often measurements in time and space
        • size of images
        • always an abstraction, never at “real world” resolution
    • visualizer looks at numbers and decides how to encode them
      • choices governed by established norms (e.g. red for hot)
      • visual variables – marks that represent information
    • visualizations make patterns apparent/specific aspects of the model are extracted
    • viz in Schmidt video made to demonstrate/underscore the points he is making
  • What is a climate model video 

What is an Earth System Model?

  • modeling how earth’s biogeochemical cycles, including human actions, interact with the climate system
    • atmospheric circulation model coupled with an
    • oceanic circulation model, with
    • representations of land, sea ice and iceberg dynamics.
    •  incorporate interactive biogeochemistry, including the carbon cycle.
  • Complexity of each system let alone the whole!
  • Where do the measurements come from?

carbon cycle: nasa/

Who builds Climate Models/Earth System Models?

Earth and Climate Model Visualizations

Climate Models Online – very simple, small scale models that work interactively online